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Piatsaw A diary on the Resistance of the Native Peoples of Ecuadorian Amazon

The project tells about the different ways of Resistance of the indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon who are threatened by the ongoing concessions for foreign companies for extraction activities. The extractive activities would not only destroy the jungle, they would also deprive the natives of their lands as well as their identities and traditions. The Shuar and Achuar territories are rich in copper and gold; more in the north, in the province of Pastaza Orellana and Sucumbío where Záparas, Kichwas A'i Kofáns and Sionas live, the threat comes from the extraction of oil. The concept of territorial identity and control of the lands, the conservation of the ethnic identity and its traditions, the War of 95 that divided them between Ecuadorians and Peruvians, the victory of the Sarayaku against the government, the attack on Nankinz and the following eviction of Tsumtsuim, are the central themes that compose this diary on the resistance of what is left of the Amazon peoples in Ecuador.

*Piatsaw: the first man in the Zápara mythologie who prophesied the end of his people’s culture.

A woman of the Zápara people looks through the window of a small plane that has just landed in the Morete community, on the Zápara territory of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This territory is surrounded by thousands of acres of primary jungle, and is therefore only reachable through the air. There is no road, and it would take a person almost a week to get there by foot through muddy lands. The absence of a road is a blessing for the local people, as it enables them to control and preserve the territory, thus preventing its deforestation. The arrival of an airplane is a special happening, as it is the only contact with the "modern world". Morete Community, Province of Pastaza, Ecuador.
The house of Rosario Ware, 108 years old, is at the Wamutey zone in Tundayme, Cordillera del Condor, Province of Zamora-Chinchipe, in the southeast of Ecuador. Her house is inside the zone of the “Mirador Project”, executed by the Chinese owned company Ecuacorriente S.A. Upon orders of that company and the Ecuadorian authorities, Doña Rosario has been evicted by force two times in the last 13 years. The mining concession consists of 4738 million pounds of copper.
From their house, Gloria and her son look at the valley extending to the west of the community of Tsumtsuim. A few days later the valley was disputed in a confrontation with the military and they had to abandon their territory. On December 14 of the same year, the State of Emergency was declared in the whole province of Morona-Santiago. The Tsumtsuim community was attacked by hundreds of military who shot against the local people. The 26 families of which this community consists were forced to flee and leave their homes, going into the jungle while night fell. Nowadays 41,769 hectares of Amazon jungle have been given in concession by the Ecuadorian government to foreign mining companies. Tsumtsuim Community, Morona-Santiago Province.
Francisco Chumbía with his four year old daughter at Chichis, Cantón Tiwintza, in the Morona-Santiago Province. Francisco, an indigenous Shuar, was a soldier and has 10 years of active service in the Intelligence division of Ecuador. He participated in the conflict on Alto Cenepa in 1995. Francisco stepped on a land mine, buried by his own army close to the position they held. According to the Department of State of the United States of America, there were some 120 victims of landmines in Ecuador between 1995 and 1999.
To the left: Carlos Wilson Tendetza, brother of José Tendetza who was murdered two years ago for being a defender and activist against the mining company Ecuacorriente S.A. Carlos decided to continue the fight of his murdered brother. Shuar community of Yanua. In the last eight years, the bodies of three indigenous Shuar were found; they were defenders of the Amazon and of their territory in particular, and against the activities of mining extraction on a large scale. Their murders have remained unpunished. Shuar community of Yanua, El Pangui, Zamora-Chinchipe Province.
A family from the Sarayaku Community returns by boat after a Minga. Kichwa. Minga is the highest act of solidarity in a communal society, a tradition of the indigenous nationalities of the Amazon, consisting of community work in which everyone participates in order to support each other. In exchange, they will be offered food and chicha. In this case, a young couple seeks to get the material to put a straw roof on their new home. Pastaza Province.
Aerial view of the Shell town in the Province of Pastaza. This town adopted the name Shell after the first Dutch company that arrived in Ecuador in 1937. Before the arrival of the company, the site was known by the indigenous people for having peccaries and hunting them. Nowadays it is one of the greatest parishes of Pastaza with 8,000 inhabitants and the airport “Rio Amazonas” has 12 airlines with small planes to enter the Ecuadorian Amazon.
A boat travels through the Bobonaza River near the Sarayaku community, inside the Amazonian jungle in the province of Pastaza. The Bobonaza River is the only access to enter the zone by land. The road to get to Canelo, where the boat leaves, is complicated, with roughly 50 kilometres of dirt road from Puyo, where some 4x4 trucks drive; when the river allows it, from here another four hours by boat is required. Sarayaku was always opposed to a land road, in order to avoid deforestation and to maintain control of the land against the arrival of intruders such as oil companies and armies. Kichwa Community of Sarayaku, Pastaza Province.
To the left: The head of the former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, in what is left of a poster inside a Shuar house in the community of Paandin, Morona-Santiago Province. The Shuars are widely known for the practice of reducing the heads of their enemies and protecting themselves from the spirits that remain inside them. To the right: Grandmother Mukutsawa is the President of the Community of Llanchama Cocha, in Zápara territory. All of the community's decisions are subject to her approval. She is one of the few people in the community that possesses a Motorola radio so she can communicate in the territory that the Zápara have under their control and consider as theirs, for being guardians of the spirits that live in the jungle. No strangers are allowed on their territory, because they fear that they could belong to an oil company interested in the extraction and destruction of the place which is considered to be sacred. Nowadays the Zápara community consists of 573 individuals who keep fighting against oil extraction and control the access of unknown people to their ancestral territory.
José Miguel Santi, communications officer of the Sarayaku Community. Kichwa Community of Sarayaku, Pastaza Province. Sarayaku is internationally known for its history of combat and resistance against oil exploitation. After 25 years of resistance, the community has succeeded in preventing oil extraction in their 135,000 hectares ancestors land, and in 2012 they achieved a historical victory for the indigenous rights when the Interamerican Court of Human Rights pronounced its verdict against the Ecuadorian government. According to an old shamanic prophecy, the Sarayaku are called "The People of the Zenith" for being a pillar of territorial, cultural and spiritual defence, a beacon as strong as the midday sun, and the last Originary People to fall for the threat of oil extraction.
Beetle larva’s for sale in the Binational market Ecuador-Peru, on the Santiago River. Soldado Monge, Morona-Santiago Province. The war from 1941 and the one in 1995 on Alto Cenepa, caused by territorial conflicts between the two countries, divided the Shuars into Ecuadorian and Peruvian. But the local people never accepted this border and on days like this commercial and relationships and get-togethers are established with the communities on the other side of the border.
To the left: A young indigenous heir of three amazonic ethnic groups and of the identity of two worlds. Multicultural community of Yaku Runa, Pastaza Province. To the right: A man from the community of Tsumtsuim. To this date, the men of Tsumtsuim are subject to an arrest warrant proclaimed by the former government of Rafael Correa. They cannot leave the Community, as they are at risk of being arrested. Shuar Community of Tsumtsuim, Morona-Santiago Province. After the forced eviction of Shuar inhabitants of Nankints by the Ecuadorian authorities in August 2016, around 30 men, mainly from Tsumtsuim, took back the territory by attacking the mining camp at November 22, 2016.
To the Left: Details of a A'i Kofán comunero’s accessories. A mobile charging cable hangs down his neck. He is an indigenous guardsman belonging to the A'i Kofán from Sinangoe community. Many members of the community use GPS in order to map territories and environmental changes; they map details like jaguar footprints, signs of particular birds and medical plants. They use an application to map the territory and have a constant monitoring system against illegal mines. Comunidad A'i Kofán de Sinangoe, Sucumbío province. To the right: A chonta spearhead. A chonta spear it's the traditional weapon of the Shuars, Zápara, Kichwa, A'i Kofán among other indios nationality, is useful in war and hunting; it's used to kill either men or animals. The spear it's also the symbol for a courageous man. A'i Kofán Community of Sinangoe, Province of Sucumbío.
Little Manari, of the Zápara community of Llanchama Cocha, is considerad by the small community (roughly 40 individuals) a "special child". He can foresee events that will happen in the community. The great treasure Záparas keeps since ancient times is their profound experience on codifying dreams, and, through their meaning, influence community and individual decisions. Nowadays Zápara community has 573 members and they're still resisting oil extraction on their ancestors land. Community of Llanchama Cocha, Pastaza Province.
Tobacco juice drink. It’s 3 am and the Yuku Runa Community is awake for the traditional Guayusa, which is taken to cause vomiting and thus clear the stomach of possible bugs and diseases. This is also the day for anyone who wants to inhale tobacco juice by the hand of the elder of the community. Inhaling the juice this way serves to increase their own strength, have clearer dreams and be able to work with them in order to improve their own life. Intercultural Comunity of Yaku Runa, Pastaza Province.
The newborn baby of Hilario and Luisa cries in his hammock at the Community of Llanchama Cocha. At his side, the objects Luisa usually carries with her when she goes away from the house: a Motorola radio and the machete. Zápara Community of Llanchama Cocha, Pastaza Province.
A helicopter from the AEE Ecuatorian Army launches from the soccer field of a school in the Parish of San Juan Bosco on November 24, 2016. For some days, the army was installed in the school to attack people of the Shuar community of Tsumtsuim, who decided to go back to their ancestors land after the forced eviction of August 2016. According to news made official by CONAIE, the Ecuadorian army carried out a repressive operation in support of the mining company Exsa China, that will start extraction activities in the region of Nankints, Panantza sector, Province of Morona-Santiago.
Group of young people Kichwas on watch during the meeting organised in order to stop the construction of the hydroelectric plant above the Rio Piatúa. The community was not consulted before the starting of the process. The Company Genefran started preliminary works which were stopped by indigenous pressure in defence of the river, their primary source of water. The indigenous people threatened to burn company machinery on a daily basis until Genefran decides to leave their area. Cantón de Santa Clara, Pastaza Province.
Smoke coming from burnt tires, during demonstration in front of the machinery prepared to build the hydroelectric plant above the Rio Piatúa. Pastaza Province.
Overflying deforested zone in the Amazon towards Sarayaku territory. Pastaza Province. (Nov. 13 2018).
Screening of the documentary "Cordillera del Cóndor - Paraíso Amenazado" (Condor Mountain Range - Threatened Paradise) on an improvised screen of paper and tape at the headquarters of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH) in Sucua, Province of Morona-Santiago. November 19, 2016. It was shown during a workshop of the Fundaciòn Tiam by the lawyer Mario Melo for the Shuar leaders of the differentes communities of Morona-Santiago to inform them on the real consequences of large scale mining.
Gerardo Gualinga, leader of the Wio group in the Kichwa Community of the native people of Sarayaku. Wio is a small ant that lives in the jungle. Despite its size, its bite produces itching, fever and, if it is in the eye, blindness. So the name of the Sarayaku indigenous security group comes from. Strategically prepared, they monitor the territory when necessary, carry out rescue operations if necessary, take care of the women, the entry of foreigners and strangers into the territory controlled by them and the security of the President of the Board of Directors of Taysajaruta (Government of the native Kichwa people). Sarayaku Community, Pastaza Province.
Protesting women and Police in Quito agaist in Nankints military attack. December 2016
To the left: Burning of gas to process the oil extracted in Dureno, in the Province of Sucumbió. In 1964, the oil company Texaco (now Chevron) arrives in Ecuador with a concession for 1.5 million hectares in the Amazon jungle, in the province of Sucumbio and Orellana. Between 1972 and 1992, the company extracted 1.5 million oil barrels while 19 billion of waste barrels were intentionally spoiled in the region, mainly in rivers. According to environmental associations, this has been the worst oil disaster in the world. The company argued that in the area where they worked there was no human presence, disqualifying the presence of the indigenous people in the area. On the Right: : Doña Rosa and her husband founded the Tsumtsuim Community 50 years ago. They also had to hide in the jungle when the military attacked. Shuar Community of Tsumtsuim, Morona-Santiago Province.
Fighting games in Llanchama Cocha after a bath in the Conambo River. Zápara Comunity of Llanchama Cocha, Pastaza Province.
A food transport offered to the community members of Tsumtsuim is on its way to the Community. San Carlos Panantza, Morona-Santiago Province. July 3, 2017. After an attack on the territory in December 2016, the army occupied their houses for 5 months approximately. When the families returned to their community, they found their homes empty. The military stole pots and working tools, finished with their farms products and ate all the chickens they breeded in the comunity. A year of labour will be needed to reestablish the productive pace of their crops and regain independence.
Sight of Coangos River, one the conflict zones. During the war of Alto Cenepa against Peru in 1995, inhabitants close to Coangos had to be evacuated to the northern riverbanks of the Santiago River. The zone was sown with landmines. Morona-Santiago Province.
Atanasio Anguasha's (55) prosthesis. He was a 15 years service Sargent during the 1995 combats. He worked at the land mine-removal operation in 97 when his mine accident happened. Metal detectors at the Ecuadorian army disposal turned to be useless for the damp jungle land. So, for the land mine-removal operation, whole areas were explored with machetes. Shell, Pastaza Province.
Abuela Marceliana from A'i Kofán community in Alto Bermejo area, Sucumbío Province. The abuela has more than 100 years, she does not know exactly as she lost the count, but she turned 100 years old a long time ago. Men that already turned 60 years old remember her as an old grandmother since when they were kids. The community is composed by four elderly people and one boy of 10 years old. Some of them lived without a partner for their entire life. They do not have an identity number; thus, nobody knows their age. Among the four elderly people, the youngest has 75 years old, while the oldest is the abuela. Memories made their boundaries on who is older than the other one. They decided to live isolated, many hours from the Alta Amazonia, according to the closest form of archaic life of their grandparents. Marceliana manages to walk thanks to the sticks which sustain her. They believe they are custodians of a secret and they will not leave this territory. There are more than 300 oil wells within some kilometres from the community.
Fernanda Tzamarendia, 17 years old, poses for a photo at corn crops by her house in Sucua. Winner of the Nunkuinua (woman crop grower) 2016. It is a beauty contest of Ecuadorian Amazon of the Province of Morona Santiago. Nunkuinua myth speaks of a girl who has powers of food producing for the Amazon People. As long as the girl is respected. A symbol of land fertility, Shuars dance and pray at ceremonies for nourishment and food obtained from Earth.
Remains of a photocopy that portrays a group of Shuar of a few decades ago in a wooden door abandoned at the headquarters of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH) in Sucua, Province of Morona-Santiago.
Sacaria, a native Shuar, lives in a Zápara community with his Zápara wife. The rule states that every Zápara who gets married with somebody from another ethnic groups, has to live in the Zápara territories. This is to maintain proximity between the few members of the ethnic group, who are almost part of a one unique big family. Moreover, being almost one family constitutes another reason why they cannot get married between themselves. The Zápara community will lose the purity of their ethnicity; nonetheless for Zápara people whoever lives like a Zápara is a Zápara. Llanchama Cocha community, Pastaza Province.
To the left: Osvaldo, A'i Kofán indigenous from Sinangoe. He is posing during a day training to use GPS, with a display to navigate drones. In this way they are able to control the territory and protect it from illegal mines. Sucumbío Province.
Shuar indigenous guardman in the Community of Tsumtsuim, Province of Morona-Santiago.
A girl from the Yaku Runa community cries after a chili juice application in her eyes. The remedy is based on the ‘science of the dream’; a woman dreamed the recipe on how to prepare and apply the chili juice. In the dream, she was preparing it with her abuelo. Pastaza Province.
Andrés Wisum, former Arutam-soldier, in the Shuar community of Buena Esperanza, Morona-Santiago Province. The Arutam were a group of élite soldiers and indigenous commandos that responded to the call for war and guided the unexperienced Ecuadorian soldiers in the unknown Amazon territories during the Alto Cenepa conflict. They were recognized as “National Heroes”. The War on Alto Cenepa was a military conflict that took place between the armed forces of Peru and Ecuador between the 26th of January and the 28th of February of 1995, and was originated by the absence of demarcation of 78 kms of border territoty. Divided by the Río de Janeiro-protocol in Ecuadorians and Peruvians, the Shuar were in the first lines to defend their territories. Apart from knowing their territory as the plam of thier hand, the Arutam could survive very long days in the jungle, where they could walk up to 60 hours with rest. It is said that, during a initiation ceremony, they received the protection of the god Arutam which helped them to stay alive in the fights with the Peruvians.
Amazon with restricted access. Wamutey, Zamora-Chinchipe Province. The war of Alto Cenepa sowed the Condor mountain range with landmines. A report of the United Nations 1999 mentions 90,000 sowed landmines in the Ecuadorian side of the region, covering an estimated area of 426,480 square kilometers.
Amarum, the little school's first grade teacher of the Zápara Community of Llanchama Cocha, Pastaza Province.
Kevin will turn 10 years old in March 2019. He is the only kid in the A'i Kofán community in Alto Bermejo where just four elderly people live isolated, many hours from the Amazonia. Between the elderly people, the youngest has 75 years old, the oldest 100. Kevin has never known who his father is, and his mother died. The elderly people are in charge of him and, because of the proximity with them, Kevin has an authentic ancestral education. The elderly decided that his education was not going to be the common education as kids raised in the city, the one of a cucama (white man); his education will be based on the heritage learned and kept by the Mayores, the ancestral education of the A'i Kofán. This is also part of the resistance. Somewhere in Alto Bermejo, Sucumbío Province.
Indigenous guardmen keeping watch on the hanging bridge of the A'i Kofán community, which is the only access to it. Sucumbío Province.
A group of Shuar volunteer, defensors of the Amazon posed for the portrait. Community of Shariant, Cantón Tiwintza, Morona-Santiago Province. Dicember 2016.
Franco Viteri Gualinga, age 49, on the landing track of the Originary People Kichwa of Sarayaku. Sarayaku Comunity, Pastaza Province. He was elected President of Tayjasaruta from 2001 to 2003, fighting against oil extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon. During his term, together with the community they achieved to expel the Argentinian oil company CGC out of their territory as they had never been consulted, which constituted a violation of their constitutional and human rights. The Sarayaku people succeeded to file a complaint against the State of Ecuador, which was referred to the CIDH, where they had a historic victory 10 years later, in 2012. To date they are waiting for the sentence to be executed. Over the last 20 years, Franco has represented the indigenous people at international events, defending the political project of the indigenous movement and its unity with social movements in the country and in Latin America.
Melany Gabriela Morocho Orozco, 4 years old. She walks in the backyard of her house in the city of El Coca, Orellana Province. She already had surgery for five times, due to her brain cancer. His father has drug addiction and he no longer lives with them. His mother is skinny, she may have cancer.
Hunted monkey in the Zápara community of Llanchama Cocha. Pastaza Province.
Fallen and abandoned small plane propeller at the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, Pastaza Province.
Oil pipe in the Amazon jungle. Sucumbío Province.
Javier Ushigua, 20 years old, is President of the Yaku Runa Community in the Province of Pastaza. His features show a mixture of three indigenous nationalities of the Amazon. His grandmother of the Shuar nationality married an Achuar man, and his mother a man of the Zápara Nation. He represents an almost complete summary of where the community he lives in stands for. Yaku Runa is a community of no more than 30 individuals from 4 different indigenous nationalities: Kichwa, Zápara, Shuar and Achuar. It has 300 hectares of land, from which roughly 25 still are primary rainforest. Yaku Runa has no electricity and is located at 20 kilometres from the city of Puyo. They voluntarily rejected the installation of electricity. The nearest electricity pole is a few meters from the village entrance. Javier´s vision is focused on the community’s welfare and the preservation of the Amazon cultures.
To the left: A man from the community of Tsumtsuim. To the right: Edwin of Kichwa nationality, recently graduated from Iwias Battalion ("Jungle Demons") at the Shell military training camp, Province of Pastaza. He was born 23 years ago, when the war on Alto Cenepa started. Shell, Pastaza Province, Ecuador. February 4, 2015. The mission of the Iwias Military School is to form jungle infantry soldiers out of native people of the Amazon region. Since it was founded this unit is considered to be the most lethal force the Ecuadorian army has.

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