Book launched on local indigenous knowledge of the fish and turtles of the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve

The book “Conocimientos del Pueblo Mayangna sobre la Convivencia del Hombre y la Naturaleza” was successfully launched in July 2010 in Managua, Nicaragua. Available in Mayangna and Spanish, the 400-page book in two volumes captures the knowledge, know-how and worldview of the Mayangna people.

The national launch of the book on Mayangna knowledge, in its Mayangna and Spanish language versions, took place on 29 July 2010 at the Centro de Concocimiento in Managua, Nicaragua. More than 25 Mayangna men and women from the five territories of the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve came to the capital city for the long-awaited launch. Don Coleman Rufus, cacique of the territory of Mayangna Sauni As, opened the event, followed by introductions by territorial leaders. Opening addresses were also provided by Joel Dixon, Vice-minister of Indigenous and Afrodescendant Affairs, Lloyd Bushey, member of the Central American Parliament and Consultative Committee on Indigenous and Afrodescendant Affairs, Luis Morales Alonso, Minister of Culture, Juan Bautista Arrién, Secretary-General of the Nicaraguan National Comission for UNESCO, Camilla Fossberg of the Royal Embassy of Norway, Pablo Mandeville, UN Resident Coordinator, Ricardo Changala, UN Human Rights Advisor and Douglas Nakashima, head of UNESCO's programnme on Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS).

The Central American tropical rainforest along the border between Nicaragua and Honduras has been the home of the indigenous Mayangna and Miskito for centuries. Through their livelihoods based on slash and burn agriculture, fishing and hunting, they have both shaped the local ecological system and sheltered it from destruction. Their knowledge about the local flora and fauna is extensive and in-depth. This book, authored by Paule Gros and Nacilio Miguel Frithz, captures in meticulous detail the breadth and depth of Mayangna knowledge about the aquatic world contributed by over 100 men and women. A wide range of information about the 30 fishes and six turtles that frequent Mayangna waterways are presented, weaving together empirical observations on behaviour, habitat, reproduction and migration patterns, with social commentaries on sharing, learning or harvesting, and cosmological reflections on human-animal relations and master spirits.

For the Mayangna and UNESCO, the book has two goals.

  • First, it contributes to the transmission of indigenous knowledge of the natural world to subsequent generations of Mayangna.
  • Second, it demonstrates to the scientific community, and the general public, the unique nature of local knowledge and the key role that the Mayangna play in sustainable resource use and biodiversity management of the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve.

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