Mac Chapin, Ph.D.


Mac Chapin, Ph.D.
Mac Chapin
Center for Native Lands, Environmental Law Institute
1616 P Street, N.W., Suite 200
City, State, ZIP
Washington, D.C. 20036
Award year


Project Details

Chapin applied his Pew Fellowship to three primary initiatives that encourage the formation of networks for greater unified action to address indigenous concerns in Honduras and throughout the Central American region. These are: (1) co-coordination of the regional conference on indigenous land and environment issues; (2) a series of workshops on land legalization and institutional capacity building for the Mosquita area and (3) work with the Miskito organizations of the region to draft a proposal for protection of the Mosquita to present to local governments.

The "First Indigenous Conference on Land, the Environment and Culture" was held in June 1996 and was attended by nearly 200 people representing 98 organizations, including 57 indigenous groups from all seven countries in Central America and from South America, Mexico and the United States. The objectives were to increase dialogue among indigenous peoples working on land and natural resource issues in Central America, to share experiences, to learn more about concrete, technically solid conservation activities, to begin networking to implement action plans and initiate communication on environmental issues among indigenous peoples, NGOs and the governments of the region. The conference achieved its goal and laid the foundation for future conferences as well as regional workshops to build local capacity and maintain active dialogue.

During Chapin's fellowship, three regional convenings took place. There was a workshop on Sustainable Development and Economic Alternatives, one on Cultural Identity and another on Territorial Rights and Legalization of Indigenous Lands. Chapin attracted additional funds to strengthen and continue these efforts and since his fellowship ended he has co-organized several more workshops covering protected areas and institutional strengthening.

In pursuit of his second fellowship initiative, Chapin has collaborated with MOPAWI in a joint project to build the capacity of Indian federations in the Mosquita inland and forest protection. This has included numerous meetings and workshops on topics ranging from strategies for land legalization, to reduction of cattle ranching, to turtle and iguana conservation. An inter-institutional commission of indigenous groups, cattle ranchers, environmental NGOs and government agencies has been established to seek solutions to the problems of deforestation, uncontrolled colonization and cattle ranching.

On the third front, Chapin has aided MASTA, a Miskito organization in the region, in efforts to legalize indigenous lands in Honduras. A commission of Honduran Miskitos has visited neighboring Panama to discuss models of legalized homelands in order to develop a strong proposal to present to the Honduran government.

In addition to his original goals, Chapin helped establish a counterpart office to the Center for Support of Native Lands in Costa Rica. He also co-organized a seminar on indigenous peoples and international law in 1997 that resulted in the establishment of a "Permanent Forum" which meets periodically to discuss advances and setbacks with specific legal cases in the region.


Norman (Mac) Chapin works with indigenous groups in Central America to strengthen their technical capacity and political position on issues of land protection and natural resource management. He began working with the Kuna Indians of Panama in the early 1980s to establish Latin America's first indigenous-run protected area, called Kuna Yala. The project gained international prominence, bringing into focus the relationship among international conservation efforts, national governments and indigenous communities. In 1989 Chapin co-coordinated the "First Interamerican Indigenous Congress on Natural Resources and the Environment" which brought together more than 70 indigenous representatives from 17 countries of the Americas.

In the early 1990s he coordinated a project with 13 scientists and the National Geographic Society to produce the bilingual map The Coexistence of Indigenous Peoples and the Natural Environment in Central America. This document demonstrates that the territories of indigenous peoples contain the vast majority of surviving biodiversity in the region. As director of the Center for Support of Native Lands, Chapin is involved in ongoing land-use mapping and other conservation projects in collaborative partnerships with indigenous organizations throughout Central America. Prior to his current position, Chapin was director of the Central American Program at Cultural Survival.



Ph.D., University of Arizona
1983: Anthropology, Arizona, USA

Masters of Arts, University of Arizona
1972: Anthropology, Arizona, USA

Bachelor of Arts, Stanford University
1963: History, California, USA


Marine Fellow
1995: Pew Fellows Program in Conservation and the Environment

Honorable Mention


Latin American Studies Association


  • Casteneda, Amilcar and G. Lopes with M. Guevara and N.M. Chapin. 1998. Proceedings from the Central American Workshop on Sustainable Development and Economic Alternatives, Honduras. Center for Support of Native Lands with Centro Skoki and Asociacion de Consejeros para una Agricultura Organica, Sostenible Y Humana (COSECHA)
  • Chapin, N.M. and S. Wood. 1997. Proceedings from the Central American Workshop on Indigenous Cultural Identity, Honduras. Center for Support of Native Lands with Centro Skoki and Asociacion de Consejeros para una Agricultura Organica, Sostenible Y Humana (COSECHA)
  • Chapin, N.M., W. Threlkeld, N. Gonzalez, O. Munguia, and A. Padilla. 1996. Report from the First Indigenous Conference on Land, the Environment, and Culture. Consejo Asesor Hondureno Pare El Desarrollo De Las Etnias Autoctonas (CAHDEA), Center for Support of Native Lands, and Moskita Pawisa-Desarrollo De La Mosquita (MOPAWI)
  • Chapin, N.M. 1994. Cultural Expression and Grassroots Development (C.D. Kleymeyer), Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, CO. pages 10-83
  • Chapin, N.M. 1992. Research and Exploration, The National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. pages 2-10

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