Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor William Ascher

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© 2024 Caruna P Gillespie


Indigenous communities in Panamá face the same challenge that many Indigenous communities experience around the globe: a lack of recognition of their land rights. Over the last several decades, the Panamanian government has developed policies and ratified international agreements that recognize Indigenous rights. The comarcas that institutionalize these rights have had some success. However, despite a seemingly progressive framework for recognition, Indigenous communities across the country continuously have their rights violated by conservation projects and resource extraction efforts in the name of economic development. The Panamanian government crafts recognition policies using loopholes, exceptions, and ambiguous language that allow for them to become unfulfilled mandates. While Indigenous communities in Panamá are faced with significant barriers to obtaining full recognition of their rights, they can use elections, national and international litigation, activism, and external support to expand and advance social movements fighting for recognition.