Human Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 551–563 | Cite as

Multi-Scale Dimensions of Indigenous Land Tenure in the Amazon

  • Drew E. Bennett
  • Rodrigo Sierra


This study demonstrates the importance of scale in understanding the common property institutions of indigenous groups in the Amazon. Using the example of the Pueblo Kichwa de Rukullakta, an ethnic Kichwa group in the Ecuadorian Amazon, we analyze land tenure arrangements at the household, community, and territory levels using a common property framework. The specific bundle of rights identified by the framework is held at the household level but households rely on community and territory level arrangements for their enforcement. Land claims at the community and territory level also serve to define the pool of legitimate rights holders at the next lower level. Due to the importance of scale in understanding indigenous land tenure generally, we suggest an adaptation of the common property framework to explicitly recognize the role of scale. This adapted framework identifies the function, characteristics, and means of enforcement for land claims at each scale of analysis.


Common property Institutions Indigenous peoples Land tenure Scale Ecuador Amazon 



We wish to thank Medardo Shiguango, Jorge Shiguango, Oswaldo Shiguango, Utilvino Grefa, Edwin Ortiz, and Carrie Bennett for their extensive assistance in the field. We are grateful to Kenneth Young, Brian King, Mario Cardozo, Jennifer Lipton, and Manuel Peralvo for providing feedback on early stages of this research. We also appreciate Juliet Erazo and four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this paper. Most of all we thank the people of Rukullakta for welcoming us into their communities and making it possible for this research to occur. Financial support for this research was received from the Tinker Summer Field Research Grand, the Robert E. Veselka Endowed Fellowship for Graduate Research Travel at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Buzzard Scholarship of Gamma Theta Upsilon.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography Program, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.GeoISQuitoEcuador

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