After the brutal Spanish raids and colonization of their territory, the Makurawe of the foothills of the Sierra Madre in Northwest Mexico were thought by most people to be extinct. For three centuries, in fact, the Guarijío – as they are also known – were considered to be a people of the past. But in 1980 they emerged from their canyons and caves and met President José Lopez Portillo, who granted them three indigenous ejidos (communal land grants) in the middle reaches of the Mayo River, which runs through the modern Mexican state of Sonora. Today, these resilient Native Mexicans find that they still need to protect their ancestral territory from invaders. The Makurawe are taking to the courts to slow construction of a dam on their sacred river and working with Federal agencies to assert their Indigenous rights, all while exploring their own models of indigenous development.
Photos: Makurawe Governor Don Jose Romero Enriquez tells of the many useful plants in his people’s threatened river valley; Los Pilares (the Pillars): a sacred site for the Makurawe may be inundated; women make tortillas at a community meeting; a sign exclaiming that community consultations on damming their river never occurred.