Indigenous organizations, international actors, and national authorities portray different images of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with the natural environment. Based on these images, these actors deploy ecological, economic, and security arguments to create or transform protected areas. By exploring three cases of conflicts over creation and management of protected areas in the Peruvian Amazon, this article maps the tensions around the different images and explores how Indigenous organizations and state authorities—backed by international actors—engage with security, economic, and ecological rationales from their own sovereignty standpoint. I argue that the state weakens Indigenous political aspiration of sovereign territorial control by translating this agenda into depoliticized mechanisms and assumptions of modern international environmentalism, which ultimately limits their capacity to truly contribute to conservation goals. A “nation-building” approach to conservation, by conceiving Indigenous Nations as sovereign partners in environmental management, might give legitimacy to environmental initiatives.
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