Building peace in the minds of men and women

Indigenous Knowledge and Knowledge Transmission

Mayangna Language, Culture and Knowledge

The BOSAWAS Biosphere reserve in north-central Nicaragua is one of the centrepieces of the 'Heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor'. This territory is also the home of the indigenous Mayangna, or Sumu, people, who have lived here for centuries. To promote transmission of their intricate and extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna, they embarked on a documentation project that expanded into the development of a curriculum and pedagogical materials that would promote Mayangna knowledge, culture and language in the classroom.

"These classroom materials strengthen our children, they open up the knowledge of indigenous peoples. We value that they are in accordance with our Mayangna reality, they speak of and reflect customs and traditions that must be further reinforced."- Mayangna community member

Like many other indigenous peoples, the Mayangna people of the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, Nicaragua are concerned about the erosion of their culture, language and knowledge. They therefore requested the support of UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme to reinforce their transmission. During the launch of the UNESCO book “Mayangna Knowledge of the Interdependence of People and Nature: Fishes and Turtles”, Mayangna leaders requested the further support of UNESCO to integrate the contents of the book into the Mayangna formal education system (for more on the documentation component of the Mayangna project, please go here).

With the support of the Norwegian Royal Embassy and the Swiss Agency for Development and cooperation, UNESCO, in partnership with Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education and the regional Secretariat for Education of the Autonomous Region, developed pedagogical materials that would support the transmission of Mayangna knowledge, culture and language in the classroom, but would also encourage and catalyse interactions and discussions between students and their families and communities about the value of such knowledge and culture in the lives of contemporary Mayangna people.

This project culminated in early 2016 when UNESCO, in collaboration with Nicaragua’s National Commission for UNESCO, launched preschool and third grade pedagogical materials in the Mayangna language, which were co-written and co-designed by Mayangna education professionals. The event was held at the Escuela Normal in Matagalpa, Nicaragua and was followed by a three-day capacity-building workshop with almost 100 Mayangna teachers, supervisors and Ministry of Education staff and officials.

The collaborative and consultative methodology used to develop the materials has engaged a wide range of Mayangna experts, teachers, students, leaders, parents and community members in the process of indigenous education, including raising awareness about the importance of Mayangna knowledge for Mayangna identity formation and community cohesion.

Related links:

  • Press releases (in Spanish only): 

"Preservar lengua materna" (La Prensa)
"Pueblos Mayangnas en tinta y papel" (La Prensa)
"Lengua Tuahka se resiste a morir" (El Nuevo Diario)

To order a copy, contact 

Educational Materials:

Preschool Materials
Spanish version 
- Teacher's Manual PRE
- Student's Workbook PRE
Mayangna version
- Teacher's Manual PRE 
- Student's Workbook PRE

Preschool Posters
- BOSAWAS Preschool Posters
- BOSAWAS Preschool Fish Cards

3rd grade materials
Spanish version
- Teacher's Manual PCN 
- Student's Workbook PCN
Mayangna version
- Teacher's Manual PCN
- Student's Workbook PCN

See also: