In early December 2012, members of the Maleku community peacefully ousted a non-Maleku who claimed to own a tract of land in the Maleku territory known as the Guatuso Indigenous Reserve. This individual had cut down the trees that grew on that land, planted grasses, and then used the area to graze cattle. Under a Costa Rican federal law known as "La Ley Indigena de 1977,"only members of the Maleku community are allowed to own lands that are part of the reserve. Since their peaceful action, members of the Maleku community have occupied the land, built homes there for a number of Maleku families, cultivated a variety of food crops (beans, squash, bananas), and have planted thousands of trees as part of their ongoing efforts to reclaim and reforest their ancestral lands. Although the Maleku continue to work through the Costa Rican courts in an effort to have this land permanently returned to their community, their case has been repeatedly "held up" and "delayed" in the court system. As of September 2016, this court case has still not been resolved. 

I am so humbled by the efforts of the Maleku tribe. Historically, and like so many other indigenous groups throughout the world, the Maleku faced systematic persecution and forced assimilation. At present, there are those who continue to infringe upon and seek to deny the Maleku their rights, both as human beings and as a sovereign indigenous group. Despite this, the Maleku maintain a strong sense of identity and community. They remain committed to reclaiming their ancestral lands and preserving their cultural beliefs, traditions, and way of life. Quite simply, despite the odds, they refuse to be erased from the face of this Earth.


© 2017 by Jillian M. Duquaine-Watson

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