Since late 2013 the Kichwa people of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon has successfully fought off oil companies from using their land for profit. As David Goodman reports for YES! Magazine, members of Sarayaku are not only defending their land, but also aiming to stop oil exploration and begin a movement to save the earth from global warming. The people of this village are countering the government and oil companies by putting forth their idea of “sumak kawsay,” or “living well,” the value that nature deserves protection from harm and humans should appreciate and love what nature has to offer without destroying its beauty. In 2008, Ecuador added the rights of nature (and specifically sumak kawsay) to its constitution.
The drilling underway on much of the indigenous land that surrounding Sarayaku is causing environmental disaster, and the people of Sarayaku want nothing to do with this. In October 2014, Ecuador’s Minister of Justice publicly apologized for violating the right to judicial protections, which has put indigenous peoples’ lives and indigenous property at risk. This public apology gave the village momentum to save their land from oil drilling.
Although there has been a fair amount of news coverage on oil exploration in Ecuador, there is no corporate media coverage of Sarayaku. In February 2015, The Guardian published coverage of Kichwa communities fighting to stop oil company boats from passing along the Tigre River in Peru, and accusing the government of oil contamination in the forest. However, even the Guardian’s coverage does not describe the struggle undertaken by the Kichwu in Sarayaku.
David Goodman, “Deep in the Amazon, a Tiny Tribe is Beating Big Oil” Yes Magazine, February 12, 2015, http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/together-with-earth/deep-in-the-amazon-a-tiny-tribe-is-beating-big-oil.
Student Researcher: Eden Griffen (Pitzer College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)