In September 2011 Bolivian police raided an encampment of several hundred indigenous people gathered to protest the government’s plan to build a road through their lands. The violence of this event broadened awareness of the TIPNIS protest in Bolivia and abroad, and sparked both a national political crisis and debate about the validity of the government’s credentials as a progressive government that supports indigenous rights. While sustaining that existing analysis has used the TIPNIS controversy to raise important questions about the government, this article questions whether current characterizations of the political dynamics and the interests of the actors involved have been overly simplified. The article demonstrates that the TIPNIS controversy reveals anew the complex and often contradictory dynamics of indigeneity in Bolivia, and argues – in contrast to most recent analysis and media coverage – that indigenous peoples in Bolivia have an intimate relationship with resource extraction. Attention to this intimate relationship and its history is important in order to grasp the claims and aspirations of these communities in the present day.

 

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