Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice in Bolivia

Language Requirement: None
Academic Standing by Program Start: Sophomore or above
Location: Americas, Bolivia
GPA: 2.5
Program Overview

In this three-week long faculty-led program students will live in the city of Santa Cruz (5 days) and in two autonomous indigenous territories in Bolivia, Guarayos (Amazon Forest, 7 days, with Guarayos indigenous peoples) and Lomerio (Chiquitano Dry Forest, 7 days, with Monkox/Chiquitano indigenous peoples). Students will carry out service-learning projects prioritized by indigenous communities, such as website development, promotion of non-timber forest products (medicinal oils, honey, coffee, tea, nuts), arts and handicrafts with women’s cooperatives, ecotourism, environmental education, invasive species removal, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable transit, monitoring extractive industries (mining, logging, industrial farming) with multimedia, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and satellite imagery, public health, as well as documentation of cultural history, music, language, and native foods. In Guarayos students will observe the production of musical instruments and listen to performances at the Urubichá Music Institute, renowned internationally for its mastery of indigenous/Baroque music playing and violin manufacturing. In Santa Cruz city students will visit World Wildlife Fund Bolivia and PROBIOMA, a Bolivian non-profit that promotes sustainable agriculture and community ecotourism as well as Guembe Biocenter - a water park that has one of the world’s largest butterfly sanctuaries, 15 natural pools, lagoons, and an animal shelter. We’ll go on a tour of the city, have an interactive workshop with local non-profits and indigenous organizations, and conclude with a farewell dinner at El Aljibe, a traditional Bolivian restaurant.

Students will learn from indigenous peoples themselves and look at a range of lenses through which indigenous peoples and other actors view the environment. This program will focus on pressing contemporary issues, including self-determination and autonomy; indigenous peoples and climate justice; oil/gas/mining conflicts on indigenous territories; legal developments and challenges; natural resource management in indigenous territories (e.g. community-forestry); development encroachment (e.g. industrial farming and logging); conservation of biodiversity related to indigenous peoples’ intellectual property rights; and indigenous agroecology.

This program includes a visit to the Pantanal, where you will have the opportunity to see a lot of exciting animals! As well you will get to visit women who work and produce natural medicine, look for medicinal plants, and visit waterfalls, cave paintings, and Aguas Calientes. The program finishes with an excursion to Guembe with 15 natural pools, restaurants, lagoons, an animal shelter zone, and a world-famous butterfly sanctuary.

Scholarship Opportunity: Scholarship funds are available for students accepted to this program. If interested, please refer to the Scholarship Essay in the program application, and speak with your GEO advisor for more information. The due date for the Scholarship Essay is February 15, 2024.




Dates and Deadlines
Term Year Priority Deadline Deadline Arrival Date Departure Date
Summer 2024 2/15/2024 3/15/2024 TBD TBD

Discount for Pell Recipients

To expand access to study abroad, GEO is offering a $400 discount for this program (Summer 2024 and beyond) to UO students who currently have the Pell Grant as part of their federal financial aid (FAFSA).

Academic Details

The main course in this program offers six quarter credits and is a mix of reading assignments, lectures, and service learning. Students will study with University of Oregon Professor Dr. Derrick Hindery, Bolivian Professor José A. Martinez and indigenous leaders, who will give guest lectures. All course activities will be conducted in English or translated to English.

At the University of Oregon, credits can be used as INTL Block B: Professional Concentration* elective credits, or INTL Block C: Latin America and Caribbean Focus elective credits. This program counts for the INTL intercultural experience requirement.
*All Block Bs accepted except for Second Language Acquisition & Teaching

Course Equivalencies

UO students: please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.

Non-UO students: Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

Additional requirements
Due to the remote nature of this program, and the sensitivity of the area and populations, this program is capped at 12 students.
Application process

This program has a rolling admission application processGEO staff (and the program faculty leader, if applicable) will complete a review of the application materials of complete applications in the order that they are submitted (“first come, first serve”). Decisions about acceptance will be made shortly after you submit a complete application. There are some programs that fill fast, some even before the deadline. Students are encouraged to complete applications and commit to programs early.

Acceptance is based on a holistic review of your application.  This includes a review of your GPA, transcripts (including courses taken and in-progress), any additional requirements or prerequisites (see section "Additional Requirements"), and the short statement. Some programs require a letter of recommendation from a faculty that is not the program's faculty leader. If a letter of recommendation is required, you will find more information in your GEO application portal.

Faculty and Staff

Dr. Derrick Hindery is a geographer and Associate Professor in the Department of International Studies at the University of Oregon. He has conducted collaborative research in Bolivia with Chiquitano/Monkóx, Guarayo, Ayoreo and other indigenous peoples since the late 1990s on the effects of pipelines and mines built by multinational corporations (e.g. Enron and Shell) and financed by international financial institutions on indigenous communities and the environment. Professor Hindery is the author of From Enron to Evo: Pipeline Politics, Global Environmentalism, and Indigenous Rights in Bolivia. He has supported various community initiatives in Bolivian indigenous territories, including non-timber forest products (e.g. medicinal oils), ecotourism, handicrafts, music, environmental education, institutional strengthening and outreach. He previously worked at Amazon Watch, where he was involved with campaigns supporting indigenous peoples in Colombia (e.g. the U'wa in their struggles against Occidental Petroleum) and Ecuador (Chevron/Texaco).
Dr. José Martinez has served as the head of Sociology at the Gabriel René Moreno Autonomous University (UAGRM) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. A Quechua sociologist who conducts research on development, social movements, indigenous peoples, extractive industries and the environment, Martinez has served as a university professor at UAGRM since 1997. He is an associate investigator at the Center for Social Investigation in Support of Development (CISAD) and a member of the science committee. On a national level, he is a member of Bolivia’s Climate Justice Program. Martinez has published books and articles on forest management, deforestation, indigenous rights, indigenous history, impacts of fire on ecosystem biodiversity, protected areas and indigenous territories. He has taught courses on the anthropology of the Amazon, Chaco and Eastern Lowlands of Bolivia; Evaluation of Social and Environmental Impacts; Political Sociology; Research Methods and Techniques and Community Forestry. He worked with the territorial planning office (CPTI) at the lowland national indigenous organization (CIDOB), heading up the satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems unit, produced an Atlas of indigenous territories in Bolivia and worked with indigenous peoples to map and insist the government create various large-scale indigenous territories in the country.

Dr. Juan Eduardo Wolf teaches undergraduate and graduate students in courses that include: Music in World Cultures, Introduction to Ethnomusicology, Musical Instruments of the World, Music in the Americas, Music in Puerto Rico, and Race in Latin American Music-Dance. His ethnographic research focuses on how people of African and Indigenous descent in Latin America use music-dance to understand and represent themselves.

Zulma Villegas Gomez’s passion for science and technology led her to study computer science at the Universidad Mayor de San Simón (Higher University of San Simón), located in Cochabamba, Bolivia, but her inclination towards people encouraged her to become a geographer, working with communities and the environment, particularly as a systems specialist of geographic information (GIS) and remote sensing. In recent years she has been involved in several research teams related to indigenous peoples, the environment, and socio-environmental evaluation. Currently, her area of interest is the relationship between the environment and society, focused mainly on deforestation processes in Bolivia. She has collaborated with two important research centers: the Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum (MHNNKM-UAGRM) as Head of the Geography and Informatics Laboratory, and the Center for Planning of Indigenous Territories (CPTI) within the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB).

Housing Description

Students will share rooms in hotels, hostels, and community buildings. Due to the remote nature of the program and limited access to housing, students may be asked to share group rooms with students of all genders (in the application students have the option to request to stay in housing with students of the same gender).
Accommodations are modest.

Given the close-knit travel nature, it's important to approach this journey with an "expedition mentality"—prioritizing decisions that benefit the group as a whole over individual preferences.