A Huni Kuin Village

The Amazon rainforest is the most biodiverse environment in the world, flourishing with resources and ecosystem services. Historically, the governing bodies of Peru have failed the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon by holding onto, and neglecting land rights and allocations. The lack of active authority and high resource value of the Amazon attracts all sorts of extraction activity, much of it being illegal[1]. The disruptive deforestation, mining, and poaching activities in the region have resulted in Indigenous Peoples’ territories being destroyed or caused severe ecological damage.

The Huni Kuin are an Indigenous People whose territorial lands stretch between parts of the Amazon Rainforest of Peru and Brazil. Like many indigenous and non-indigenous people of the area, the Huni Kuin are reliant on hunting for sustenance[2]. The Huni Kuin hypothesized the population loss of bigger game is tied to land use and forest disturbances [2]. Eventual title was given to the Huni Kuin and with their management they've seen their game stocks replenish [2]. Additional research into the effectiveness of granting land title to protect forests has shown that titling can prevent deforestation and disturbance.


Land Title

The Huni Kuin

Game meat represents an important source of protein for many populations within the Amazon [2]. As many populations hunt for subsistence, the effects of hunting can be substantial. The reduction of animal populations to critical points is of severe concern for the overall health of the Amazon and sustainability of the local communities. Many of the large game that are locally preferred for hunting provide ecological benefits such as seed dispersal and predation [3]. Initial concerns established by the Huni Kuin assessed lower faunal populations within their territory. Several hypotheses were developed by the Huni Kuin, including higher game populations in more isolated parts of the territory, and lower game availability related to disruptive land use.

Deforestation in the Amazon. A depiction of the "source-sink" mosaic.

The Huni Kuin land is adjacent to high disturbance oil extraction sites and low disturbance uncontacted indigenous lands. Researchers recognize the mosaic of disturbed and undisturbed lands adjacent to the Huni Kuin territory as a "source-sink system"[2]. This mosaic causes wildlife populations to replenish in high numbers in the undisturbed sites, and decline or not be present in the disturbed sites. Further disturbances that remove the 'source sites' could be detrimental to wildlife populations.

While oil and logging activities provide direct disturbances to the ecosystem and game populations, additional concern is placed upon the displacement of non-contacted people [2]. The relocation of non-contacted people and other affected communities caused an increase of human density within the Huni Kuin territory. The higher human density within the territory became problematic when hunting and cattle farming became an economic mainstay for the non-indigenous communities.

After a series of agreements between the late 1980's and early 2000's, the Huni Kuin received legal title over all but one of their territorial lands[2]. This made non-indigenous people move out of their previously titled lands. Following this, a management plan established in 2005 by the Huni Kuin established rules to preserve wildlife. These rules included a restriction on the use of hunting dogs and a restriction on hunting pregnant females and newborns[2]. The combination of management techniques by the Huni Kuin and the eviction of non-indigenous communities resulted in the recovery of game populations.

Titling to Protect

The titling of the Huni Kuin land is one example of a trend of titling providing protection to land and resources. A study of indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon revealed that titling is an effective way of reducing resource exploitation [4]. The reduction of squatters who colonize and clear forests is an integral part of titling to protect. This same principle contributed in large part of the recovery of wildlife in the Huni Kuin titled land. Blackman et al cite other reasons for the protection of land by granting title such as enhancing formal and informal community governance, regulatory pressure from NGOs, and the ability to create legal documents[4]. These findings present titling as an option for managing and protecting local forests.

This concept has received some criticism as the communities involved in the original paper did not have full land rights, but title with restrictions. This criticism questions whether or not giving full land rights would yield similar results and urges the consideration of contextual factors [5].


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Huni Kuin

Traditional Huni Kuin leaders were involved in discussions in the 1970's and onwards to be granted title of their land[6]. Huni Kuin members currently manage, inspect, and survey their forests. This includes the implementation of agroforestry systems, use of natural resources, and repopulation of wildlife[6].

Nation-state Governments

The governments of Peru and Brazil are two of the 143 original countries to vote in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Article 26.1 of UNDRIP states "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired" [7]. This article affirms the title granted to the Huni Kuin and the autonomy to decide how their resources are used.

Affected Stakeholders

The Huni Kuin people and other local Indigenous groups of the Alto Purús Indigenous territory, such as the Kulina people, are the affected stakeholders involved. The Huni Kuin people traditionally lived on the right side of three tributaries of the Envira river that flowed through the Upper Juruá region of Alto Purús, while the Kulina people claimed territory on the left side of the rivers [8]. These indigenous groups have existed in specific parts of the Amazon rainforest for far longer than any other people. Majority of the Huni Kuin people originated from Brazil in Acre state and the Southern region of the Amazon basin, and the remaining groups originated from Peru .[9] The first instances of non-indigenous groups discovering the territory and colonizing land occurred in the 1700's and resulted in violent enslavement of the Huni Kuin people [8]. The violence did not end there, and persisted through the late 1800's and early 1900's as itinerant Peruvian communities settled in the forest, encroaching on indigenous territories in attempts to extract rubber [8]. Enslaved and maltreated the Huni Kuin and Kulina people either held their ground against the colonizing Peruvian people and stayed as slaves or workers, or retreated deeper into the Amazon forest where they remain [8].

Having traditional and ancestral claims to territory in the Alto Purús National Park makes the Huni Kuin and Kulina indigenous people the affected stakeholders in this case study. The Huni Kuin people have staked claim to territorial hunting grounds within their titled lands, hunting mainly for sustenance [10]. Hunting is a main goal of the people and is of extreme significance to the Indigenous group as trapping and hunting of large game is their main source of nutrition [11]. Like many indigenous groups, the Huni Kuin rely heavily on existing nature within their titled lands for physical as well as spiritual support, and have developed a strong connection to nature through countless generations of traditional knowledge and cultural rituals being passed down. The use of Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant drink made from mixing Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi (two plants native to Peru and Brazil), and Shamanism are of critical importance to the Huni Kuin culture [11]. This spiritual, cultural dependence on Ayahuasca is an even further connection to the forested lands and species that exist amongst it. The knowledge that the Huni Kuin people have gathered on the natural cycles and processes of the Amazon rainforest are pertinent in allocating protection of the land. Land knowledge and expertise on the natural ecosystem that have been passed down generationally provide the Huni Kuin people with deep roots to the land and significant comprehension of how the forest functions. For this reason, the Huni Kuin people gained legal title to 873km^2 of their territory in 1991, 115km^2 more in 2000, and 87km^2 more in 2002 [2]

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Mahogany trees

There are two categories of interested outside stakeholders involved with the Huni Kuin people and their territory. The first major interested stakeholder involved are the rubber extractors who first attempted to colonize the Huni Kuin people, and the logging and oil mining industries who are currently displacing them and depleting resources [9], [12]. The late history of the Huni Kuin people, from around late 1800's to mid 1900's involved recurring episodes of violence imposed on the people by Brazilian and Peruvian people who set out to extract rubber and in the course of their brutal extraction methods, decimated Indigenous populations [9]. These rubber extractors' interests in the area completely neglected the established presence of the Huni Kuin and only existed to reap the natural resources of the Altos Purús National Park [9]. As the natural rubber economy declined, the demand for extraction also declined and many non-indigenous people left the Amazon. However, the demand for timber has and is rapidly growing and led to major destruction of the Amazon rainforest [12]. Within the Alto Purús National Park there exists some of the final mature mahogany tree individuals, situated mostly on Indigenous land [12]. The demand for this wood is high within developed countries such as the United States and influences large influxes of illegal logging, impeding on Indigenous territory [12]. These illegal logging agencies remain stakeholders of the area, but only as an interested outside party as there is no historical connection or dependence on the land itself.

The second interested outside stakeholder group involved are activists groups and anthropologists working to bring awareness to the Huni Kuin people and issues involved through the integration of media. It is a continual struggle for indigenous groups to try and protect their culture, and an everlasting way to do such is through the production of a cultural film. Tuwe Huni Kuin, son of a traditional leader, is attempting to produce a film to portray indigenous conservation efforts. The film is supported financially by affluent production companies such as Post Factory NY, and Globo TV, Brazil [13]. In another effort to perpetuate the Huni Kuin culture, anthropologist Guilherme Meneses studied the Huni Kuin culture and with major involvement of the indigenous community produced a PC and Mac video game titled "Huni Kuin: The Way of the Snake" [14]. The purpose behind this media creation was to bring awareness to Indigenous truths and negative prejudice and misinterpretations people have about them [14]. Through the creation of this game, Meneses has acted as an ally to Indigenous community members and enabled a world where their stories can be shared with children and adults globally, hopefully bringing recognition to the significant and extraordinary knowledge of Indigenous communities. Post Factory NY, Globo TV, Brazil, and Guilherme Meneses are all interested outside stakeholders as well as allies as they are attempting to support the Huni Kuin people but do not have any meaningful or historical connection to the land or Huni Kuin people themselves.


Replenishing and managing large wildlife within the land of the Huni Kuin is an ecological success. Large mammals, birds and reptiles of the Amazon which may be hunted as game serve diverse ecological roles [3]. Continued management by the Huni Kuin seeks to re-establish populations of other animals including turtles and bees[6].

Granting title to the Huni Kuin over their territory allowed them to enforce management plans and reduce human density to local indigenous peoples. The result of this is a resurgence of wildlife within their territory. However, the movement of non-indigenous people from the Huni Kuin territory may be seen as a failure when taken into context. The increased human density within the Huni Kuin land comes from already being relocated from nearby oil and forestry operations [2]. The relocation of these people, while within the rights of the Huni Kuin, is not ideal.

The research conducted surrounding the Huni Kuin and their successful management of their resources following land title sets a positive precedent for the future of indigenous rights. Despite criticisms, granting title empowers Indigenous communities to autonomously choose how their land is used which is a positive for communities like the Huni Kuin.


The stakeholders involved in this case include; the Peruvian Government, the Brazilian Government, the Huni Kuin, non-indigenous communities, activists and anthropologists.

The Peruvian and Brazilian Governments are two high power, low interest actors in this situation. As these two nation-state governments have the ability to influence many aspects of this situation with little input required from outside groups. They are currently low interest actors as there is little conflict or value to be gained from intervening in this situation. The governments provided title to the Huni Kuin and have limited their interactions since.

The Huni Kuin are for obvious reasons the high interest stakeholders in this case, acting as affected stakeholders due to their long lasting cultural dependence and relationship with the land. On a small scale, the Huni Kuin have power over their land that have gained legal title, allowing them to practice cultural rituals, hunt, trap, fish, and extract resources on their land. This has major effect on the local landscape as the traditional knowledge generationally passed down on the ecosystem processes and functions is in conjunction with the current forestry practices of the Huni Kuin people. This results in sustainable, ecocentric land management. However, on broader temporal and spatial scales the Huni Kuin people lack any major power in political decisions and industrial management practices as the Peruvian and Brazilian governments scarcely include indigenous community members in their decision making on political issues.

Non-indigenous communities include the communities evicted by the titling of several Huni Kuin lands. These communities are low power, high interest actors in the situation. These communities are small groups with little recognition beyond the local scale, and have very little political power as a result. Their livelihood is directly impacted by eviction caused by titling which makes them high interest stakeholders.

The activists and anthropologists act as high interest, medium power interested outside stakeholders in this case. They display a clear engagement with the indigenous communities of the Huni Kuin people and are acting as strong allies towards them by being inclusive in their actions and attempts to spread recognition. However, the media produced by this stakeholder group has potential to reach a broad audience yet lacks the proper platform to successfully connect with these larger audiences. The work done here is beneficial and should be continued, yet more contributions need to be made from other activist allies in order to make more of an impact.  


In the broadest context, our recommendations on the case study of the Huni Kuin people and their struggle with gaining recognition within government is to bring awareness to Indigenous ancestral and territorial claims to land and include the Huni Kuin people themselves in all management decisions of the land. Specifically, granting legal title to all claimed territorial, customary land of the Huni Kuin people is critical in the legitimization and legal process of establishing and protecting their rights. The titling of land rights to indigenous communities has been shown to reduce rates of deforestation and protect biodiversity of a forest [15] The benefits that come from granting tenure security to indigenous communities over their traditional areas is boundless, and through the cooperation of local governments and indigenous community, co-management can provide results that benefit the goals of all local affected stakeholders of an area. It was found that in areas where land was legally titled to the indigenous communities, deforestation and degradation decreased by 75% [16].

The Huni Kuin have been a part of research projects which have enabled them to get perspective from the scientific community on their local forests. They provided their own hypotheses which were followed up by researchers and concluded to be correct. This integration of knowledge between the Huni Kuin and larger scientific community provides unique learning opportunities for both communities. As such, our recommendation is for the continuation of joint research on how to best manage forests.


This conservation resource was created by Carl Bols and Piper Stump.

  1. Boekhout van Solinge, T. (2010). Deforestation crimes and conflicts in the Amazon. Critical Criminology, 18(4), pp. 263-277.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Constantino, P. Indigenous collaborative research for wildlife management in Amazonia: The case of the Kaxinawá, Acre, Brazil
  3. 3.0 3.1 S.J. Wright, H. Zeballos, I. Dominguez, M.M. Gallardo, M.C. Moreno, R.Ibanez Poachers alter mammal abundance, seed dispersal and seed predation in a Neotropical forest Conservation Biology, 14 (2000), pp. 227-239
  4. 4.0 4.1 Blackman, A., Corral, L., Santos Lima, E., Asner, G. P. (2017). Titling indigenous communities protects forests in the Peruvian Amazon. PNAS, 114(16), pp. 4123-4129.
  5. Robinson, Brian (2017). "Community land titles alone will not protect forests". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Tuwe Kuni Huin. "ahopachamama". ahopachamama. Retrieved April 2, 2019. 
  7. United Nations, General Assembly (2008), United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Povos Indígenas Brasil (November 2004). "Huni Kuin (Kaxinawá)". 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Intercontinental Cry (2014). "Cashinahua". 
  10. Araujo Lima Constantino, Pedro (January 2015). "Dynamics of hunting territories and prey distribution in Amazonian Indigenous Lands". Applied Geography. 56: 222–231. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 M., Lisa (June 2017). "The Huni Kuin science of Ayahuasca". Mapping Medicine. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Fagan, Chris; Shoobridge, Diego (January 2005). "An investigation of illegal Mahogany logging in Peru's Alto Purús National Park and its surroundings". Research Gate. 
  13. Inti Raymi Fund (2014). "Kuin people - documentary filming support". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Dupere, Katie (March 2016). "Indigenous tribe in Brazil creates video game to help preserve culture". Mashable. 
  15. Blackman, A., Corral, L., Santos Lima, E., Asner, G. P. (2017). Titling indigenous communities protects forests in the Peruvian Amazon. PNAS, 114(16), pp. 4123-4129.
  16. Arsenault, Chris (April 2017). "How to protect Peru's rainforest? Indigenous land titles, researchers say". Reuters. 

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