Profile

The Tawahka are the smallest of the Honduran indigenous community with a population of 2,690 people. Tawahka live in a 233-hectare area of rainforest in the centre of the Mosquitia. Presently the group is struggling to have this space declared an indigenous reservation and to be considered as one of the most biologically significant areas of Mesoamerica. Many Tawahka communities have abandoned their language in the face of pressures to assimilate.

Historical Context

Although some Paya and Tawahka-Sumu were absorbed within the larger Miskito group, the Tawahka, like the Mayagna Sumu in Nicaragua, had less contact with European trading activities and remained marginalized.

In the 1980s, both Miskito and the few remaining Tawahka communities suffered disruption resulting from the Contra war through the flow of Miskito refugees from Nicaragua, which also increased the focus on indigenous issues in Honduras.

Current Issues

Tawahka are struggling to retain control over the land they inhabit in the Mosquitia rainforest, which has been declared an eco-cultural biological reserve. In Olancho, Tawahka face threats to their land from both drug traffickers and extractive industries. Living as they do along the Patuca river, the Tawahka are also threatened by the Patuca III dam which is planned to be completed by 2018. Tawahka community representatives fear what the dam will do to their fisheries and river-dependent game; depleted water levels will hamper transport links and trade with other communities.