Originally warriors, craftsmen and traders, the Cofan are now leading indigenous conservation efforts and care for over one million acres of Amazon rainforest in northeastern Ecuador. Numbering less than 2,000, their culture and ancestral language, A'ingae, nevertheless remain strong. However, many still live in communities devastated by decades of oil extraction and suffer high rates of cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and skin conditions. That's why the Cofan have partnered with other indigenous communities to launch a powerful initiative to develop their own solutions to the water and health crisis affecting their territory.
One of the Tribe proudly supports the Cofan and their efforts.
Once semi-nomadic warriors, the Achuar have lived in the Amazon Basin for thousands of years. Today they number around 6,000 and have settled in remote riverbank communities between the modern borders of Ecuador and Peru. The Achuar remain self-sufficient and autonomous, relying on their ancestral lands for their physical and cultural survival. They hunt, fish, gather and grow large gardens of plants needed for cooking, painting their bodies, medicines and sacred spiritual practices.
The Achuar have always been a visionary people, rising before dawn each day to share their dreams in a family tea ceremony and to integrate them into daily life. More recently, they have partnered with other traditionally warring communities to protect their lands from oil drilling and environmental damage, to develop sustainable economic initiatives, to establish their right to self-determination, and to ensure the long-term well being of their language, culture and traditions.
With a population of 2.5 million, the Quichua live in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and are the largest indigenous group in America. They are also the only people who settled in the Andes Mountains and in the Amazon Rainforest, creating two distinct identities and cultures.
The Sarayaku Kichwa number 1,000 and live on the banks of the Bobanaza River in the southern region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The people of Sarayaku claimed autonomy after CGC, an Argentine oil company, moved into the area and began conducting seismic surveys. Facing corporate pressure, government intimidation and military violence, the Sarayaku stood firm and remained united to peacefully protect their land, culture and newly established eco-tourism initiatives.
In July 2012 after a decade-long legal battle, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled in favour of the Sarayaku, finding that the Ecuadorian state violated their right to be consulted, their cultural identity and their community property rights – a key victory for indigenous communities everywhere.
1964 marked the arrival of Texaco and the beginning of an environmental nightmare that continues to threaten the health of the Amazon Rainforest and its indigenous guardians. Backed by the Ecuadorian government and without consulting indigenous communities, Texaco took over ancestral lands, performed seismic testing and cut through forest that had sustained indigenous life and culture for centuries. Three decades of crude oil spills and the systematic dumping of toxic waste has contaminated Amazon land and waterways, endangering plants, animals and people.
After an 18-year lawsuit, Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – was found guilty of polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon and in 2011 was ordered to pay $19 billion in damages. But Chevron has refused to pay up or clean up and is currently running from a series of international lawsuits filed to seek seizure of its assets.
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