ClearWater Updates End of year - 2016

Mapping ancestral lands of the Ecuadorian Amazon

Elders work with young Waorani leaders to draw sketch-maps of nearly 500,000 acres of primary forest along the Curaray River Basin.

Mapping Waorani Ancestral Territory Along the Curaray River

Waorani youth walked hundreds of miles of ancestral trails and hunting routes, documenting historical sites and sensitive ecological zones in order to create "living maps" of their rainforest territories.

Territorial recuperation and reunification in Siekopa'ai territory on the Ecuador-Peru border

Young Siekopaai technicians utilizing GPS devices to map a wide-variety of culturally important sites in the Lagarto Cocha area

In Ecuador, the Siekopa’ai have no legal title or recognized rights over their ancestral territory and have been corralled into a much reduced territory of 50,000 acres situated over 100 miles from their ancestral territory and surrounded by oil fields, mega-scale African Palm plantations and a network of roads that accelerate illegal logging and land invasion. Lagarto Cocha, located along the border of Peru is an integral part of the Siekopa’ai’s ancestral territory.

8 ancient village sites, sacred ceremonial sites, 1000’s of miles of ancestral travel routes and places of mythological and spiritual significance were mapped during the 2016 Siekopa'ai mapping project

We face a pivotal moment in the conservation of this unique rainforest and the Siekopa’ai’s ancestral culture deeply tied to this land. The Siekopa’ai of Ecuador and Peru are working jointly with ClearWater and the Ceibo Alliance to create strategic village sites, map ancestral migration routes and produce video-testimony to support land claims, achieve dual-citizenship for all Siekopa’ai people, and legally and culturally recover more than a million acres of their ancestral rainforest territory.

Indigenous rights defenders

Through the Indigenous Rights Defenders program, Ceibo and ClearWater are training local indigenous advocates on legal skills and strategies that both reduce and protect community members from the impact of harmful infrastructure and resource extraction within their own communities. This year, we have provided eleven week-long training meetings to twelve Indigenous Rights Defenders from nine different communities in order to develop and enhance their capacity to identify and map threats to their lands and livelihoods, document and monitor those threats, and devise community-based legal and advocacy strategies to resolve legal issues in concrete and enduring ways.

Siona from four communities along the Aguarico river meet to discuss territorial defense strategies with Ceibo Indigenous Rights Defenders and ClearWater's legal team

Beyond the training sessions, the Indigenous Rights Defenders program’s aim is to foster and support action in the defense of the Defenders’ indigenous territories. In 2016, the Indigenous Rights Defenders filed 179 complaints, reports, or official requests with government institutions or courts.

Siona Defenders from the community of Wisuya are fighting this illegally constructed pipeline built in their ancestral territory.

To give just a few examples, Indigenous Rights Defenders won a significant case against the state-owned oil company PetroAmazonas for illegally constructing an oil pipeline on Siona territory, and on the other side of the river, are accompanying the Siona community of Buenavista in their staunch resistance to proposed seismic testing in their territory by the London based oil-company Amerisur.

“A group of leaders, supported by our elders and by Ceibo’s Defenders have returned to the fight. That which the western world calls development has only brought us misery, sickness and pain. And the State has disappeared from our territory because their absence helps the companies control our territory and resources. But we are now alert, we know how they manipulate and lie and have decided to fight. - Mario Erazo, President of Siona Buenavista (pictured with ClearWater attorney Maria Espinoza)

Cultural revival in the Amazon

ClearWater and Ceibo are working in the four corners of the Ecuadorian Amazon to help recover traditional and ancestral cultural practices

Recovering the ancient Yoko vine

Traditionally, the Yoko vine has been wild-harvested and rasped each dawn before the morning practices of twining chambira, sharing dreams and the counseling the youth begings. Today, nearly depleted from many of this regions’ indigenous territories, the Siekopa'ai and Siona Nations have prioritized its recovery. In 2016, the ClearWater and Ceibo teams helped collect and plant more than 1000 Yoco seedlings within 7 one-hectare garden sites.

Thanks to ClearWater and Ceibo, seven one-hectare experimental yoco garden plots are now at different stages of implementation in Siona and Siekopa'ai territories

Building ceremonial logdes

In the fall of 2016, ClearWater and the Ceibo Alliance inaugurated a ceremonial lodge in the Cofán community of Zábalo, a historical moment to recover perhaps what is the most culture-defining practice of the Cofán people. In addition to the central lodge, the Ceibo and ClearWater teams also facilitated the construction of an adjacent yagé cooking space, gender-specific restrooms, a bridge crossing, and silvicultural advice and interventions to the lodges’ surrounding one-acre plot of yagé vines. Inspired by the success of this project, three other Cofán communities have begun building their own ceremonial houses with the help of our teams.

Inauguration of a ceremonial lodge in Cofán territory

Transfer of traditional knowledge and practices

The Ceibo Alliance is also facilitating a number of community based initiatives focused on the transfer of traditional knowledge and practices that are deemed quintessential for the four unique indigenous cultures. During the second semester of 2016, the women of the Siekopai community of Siekoya Remolino prioritized the teaching of the ‘tiesto’ or clay plate used in the making of cassava tortillas. The breadth of the teachings included; the collection and identification of the specific silicate-rich tree bark that is burned and blended with the clay for strengthening; the excavation and quality-testing of clay; the proportionate mixing of the clay and and ash; and finally, the two-week process of forming, scraping, polishing, and drying the clay before the ‘moment-of-truth’ firing of the plate with a dry bamboo kindling.

In the fall of 2016, dozens of women in Secoya Remolino participated in a clay plate workshop, which is used in the making of cassava tortillas

Women and family program

The combined force of government paternalism, the growth in the presence and work of extractive industries in the region and the incursion of Western viewpoints and values has had significant negative effects on the communities and women of the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon. During 2016, Ceibo and ClearWater worked with over 450 women from 19 communities in the four nationalities. We initiated five socio-productive initiatives, two community-run businesses and one women’s association. We held approximately 30 meetings and training sessions on community organizing, women’s ancestral practices, self-esteem, leadership, traditional medicine and following through with work plans.

Handicraft workshop with more than 80 Waorani women on the Via Maxus oil road in December 2016

Waorani Women leadership

In 2016, our efforts to create relationships of trust with the existing Waorani women’s organization have resulted in creating joint plans with the Asociación de Mujeres Waorani de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana (AMWAE). For example, we have begun accompanying and strengthening the association’s leadership by conducting training in artisanal techniques with approximately 80 women, men and children in Dicaro, Giyero, Yarentaro, Timpoca and Yoweweno communities located along the Via Maxus oil road.

Siekopa'ai community sewing

In 2016, we took our first steps toward the legalization of a women’s association in the community of Sewaya and in so doing we made strides toward our dream of building the foundation for a Siekopaai community sewing and fashion business. We collectively built a work schedule to outline the acquisition of equipment, technical training for the women and the eventual operation of the workshop.

Siekopaai woman participating in a meeting to outline next steps in the configuration of a sewing workshop.

Clean water to all four Nations of the Alliance

In 2016, ClearWater installed 149 water systems and provided maintenance to 18 more across the Ecuadorian Amazon

ClearWater and the Ceibo Alliance continue to make important headway towards our goal of providing every family of the Cofán, Siona, Siekopa'ai and Waorani Nationalities of Ecuador’s northern Amazon with safe, reliable access to clean water. In 2016, Ceibo installed 149 rainwater catchment systems for family homes in Cofan, Siona, Waorani and Secoya communities, and provided maintenance to 18 catchment systems in Secoya territory.

Approximately 1,000 people are currently benefitting from the latest round of work done by ClearWater and the Ceibo Alliance Water Project.

The installations in Sotosiaya, Mañoko and San Pablo- Siekoya Remolino mark an important achievement for ClearWater and the Ceibo Alliance as now every Siona and Siekopa'ai family in Ecuador has safe, reliable access to clean water via a family-sized rainwater harvesting system.

Toñampare technician Felix Pauchi and his family together with their Water System.

Bringing Solar Power to the Amazon

After a successful pilot project in 2016 where we installed 44 solar systems for the Waorani, Secoya and Cofan Nations, in 2017 we are gearing up to install over 150 family-sized solar systems in more than 10 roadless communities across the Amazon rainforest, fostering autonomy, self-sufficiency, and conservation in indigenous villages threatened by the expanding industrial frontier.

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