5. Indigenous peoples and the rights of nature

Abstract

In recent decades, indigenous people have displayed a new confidence and pride in their identity, using changes in the law at national and international level in order to defend themselves, their territory, and their culture, particularly against the extractive industries.

They have been engaging with aspects of mainstream Western culture such as higher education and communications technology, reaching beyond the borders of their country in a struggle that is becoming increasingly global.

Index

About the Author

Linda Etchart is a lecturer in Human Geography at Kingston University, London. She has taught at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Anglia Ruskin University. She was an editor at Pluto Press, and a programme officer for the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Her published work is in the area of con-flict transformation and the role of indigenous peoples in global governance.Interviews

Interviewees

Alicia Cawiya (vice president of the Huaorani people): interviewed in Quito and Puyo, Ecuador, on 16 and 20 August 2016 by Linda Etchart and James Thackara. Translated by Linda Etchart.

Juan Ch’oc (Crique Sarco village): interviewed in Crique Sarco, Belize, on 14 October 2016 by Rachel Simon. Transcribed by Rachel Simon.

Eriberto Gualinga (Sarayaku Kichwa communications director/film-maker): interviewed in Sarayaku, Ecuador, on 20 August 2016 by Linda Etchart and James Thackara. Translated by Linda Etchart.

Patricia Gualinga (Sarayaku Kichwa activist): interviewed in Puyo, Ecuador, on 24 August 2016 by Linda Etchart and James Thackara. Translated by Linda Etchart.

Fany Kuiru (Tejedoras de Memoria): interviewed in Bogotá on 12 August 2016 by Gwen Burnyeat. Translated by Olivia Plato and Hebe Powell.

Eva Sánchez (Las Hormigas): interviewed in Intibucá, Honduras, on 26 October 2016 by Louise Morris. Translated by Louise Morris.

Ayme Tanguila (Kichwa architect and urbanist): interviewed in Quito on 27 August 2016 by Linda Etchart. Translated by Linda Etchart.

Froyla Tzalam (SATIIM): interviewed in Punta Gorda, Belize, on 10 October 2016 by Rachel Simon. Transcribed by Rachel Simon

References

NB: All web references were checked and still available in May/June 2018 unless otherwise stated.

Balch, O. (2013) ‘Buen vivir: the social philosophy inspiring movements in South America’, The Guardian, 4 February

Barrett, P.M. (2013) ‘Canada says ‘No thanks’ to Chevron pollution suit’, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2 May

Diamond, J. (2005) Guns, Germs, and Steel, 2nd edn, Vintage, London.

Etchart, L. (2018) ‘Ecuador, Chevron and the extractor’s curse’’, three-part article series, LAB, London, 17 September

Forst, M. (2017) cited in F. Martone, ‘Defenders of the earth and the environment’, Other News, 12 November

Galeano, E. (1971) Open Veins of Latin America, translated from the Spanish by C. Belfrage (1997), Monthly Review Press, New York.

Miller, T. (2003) ‘Ecuador: Texaco leaves trail of destruction’, Corpwatch

Videos

video

Ecuador: I’m a defender of the forest, which gives us life, energy and strength

The struggle of an indigenous Amazonian people in defence of their rights and the land on which they live, in Sarayaku, Ecuador...
video

Ecuador: ‘Crudo’ – film about the fight against Chevron

Film. Crudo ('Crude oil'). Directed by Joe Berlinger. Red Envelope & Entendre Films. 1hr 44mins. 2009. English subtitles.
video

Ecuador: the Kichwa people of Sarayaku vs the government and the oil companies

A few years ago, the Ecuadorian government gave an oil company permission to drill for oil on land belonging to...
video

Colombia: chocolate of peace

A film by Gwen Burnyeat and Pablo Mejía Trujillo about the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. Chocolate...
video

Belize: registering Mayan lands

1st successful pilot Project for land registration in Crique Sarco Village, Toledo Belize implemented by SATIIM. Maya Land Registry.

Further reading

General

Cullinan, C. (2010) ‘The Legal Case for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth’, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

Forst, M. (2017). ‘Situation of human rights defenders’, United Nations General Assembly

Global Witness (2018) ‘Deadliest year on record for land and environmental defenders as agribusiness is shown to be the industry most linked to killings’, Global Witness

Gudynas, E. (2011) ‘Buen Vivir: Today’s tomorrow’, Development 54(4), 441–447

Parker, A. (2018) ‘Latin America Deadliest Region for Environmental Defenders: Report’, Insight Crime

Riffo, L. (2017) ‘Fracking and Resistance in the Land of Fire’, Nacla Report on the Americas, Vol 49, No 4, Winter

Wearne, P. (1996) The Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas. London: Cassell/Latin American Bureau. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Additional resources by country:

Brazil

Arnold, C.F. (2018) The Third Bank of the River. New York: Picador

Yanomami, D. K. (2013) The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap/Harvard University Press

Belize

Simon, R. (2017) ‘Belize: Conservation in the forest.’ Latin America Bureau

Simon, R. (2017) ‘Belize: Teechaz gat yuh bak’, Latin America Bureau

Tzalam, F. (2017) ‘Mapping on our terms’, Cultural Survival Quarterly, pp. 10-11

Colombia

Burnyeat, G. (2018) Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan

Casement, R. (1997) The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement. London, Anaconda Editions.

Farje, J. (2012) ‘The Putumayo Atrocities’, Latin America Bureau

Hardenburg, W. E. (1913) The Putumayo, the Devil’s Paradise

Hill, D. (2018) ‘‘The war goes on’: one tribe caught up in Colombia’s armed conflict’, The Guardian

O Siochain, S. (2011) More power to the Indians’: Roger Casement, the Putumayo, and indigenous rights’, Irish Journal of Anthropology, 14 (2). pp. 5-12

Ramírez, M.C. (2011) Between the Guerrillas and the State: The Cocalera Movement, Citizenship and Identity in the Colombian Amazon. Durham: Duke University Press.

Tóibín, C. (2016) ‘Colm Tóibín on Roger Casement’, The Casement Project

Ecuador

Acosta. A. (2017) ‘Living Well: Ideas for reinventing the future’, Third World Quarterly. Vol 38, No 12.

Acosta, A. (2017) ‘Rethinking the world from the perspective of Buen Vivir’, Degrowth

Acosta, A. (2010). ‘Toward the Universal Declaration of Rights of Nature Thoughts for action.’ Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

Arasim, E. (2016) ‘Mujeres Por La Selva – Indigenous Women of Ecuador Stand for an Amazon Free from Extraction on International Women’s Day’, Women’s Voices for Climate Justice

Becker, M. (2012) ¡Pachakutik! Indigenous Movements and Electoral Politics in Ecuador. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield

Etchart, L. (2017) ‘One Woman Against Big Oil and Patriarchy’, New Internationalist

Febres Cordero, B. (2017) ‘In the Depths of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Digital Communications Aid the Process of Self-Determination’, NewsFrames

Gonzalez, D. (2018) ‘At Home in the Jungle, Everything Is ‘Alive and Has a Spirit’’, The New York Times

Melo, M. (2001) ‘How the Recognition of the Rights of Nature Became a Part of the Ecuadorian Constitution’, in The Rights of Nature: the case for a Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth. San Francisco: Global Exchange and Council of Canadians

Miller, T. C. (2003) ‘Ecuador: Texaco Leaves Trail of Destruction’, Corpwatch

Peel, N. (2011) ‘Blood of the Amazon by Nicola Peel – preview’, The Guardian

Riofrio, I. (2018) ‘Ecuador Sarayaku Leader Patricia Gualinga Defends Territory Despite Threats’, Mongabay

Sawyer, S. (2004) Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Vidal, J. (2010) ‘Andean Voices: Alberto Acosta’, The Guardian

Honduras

Ford, L. (2017) ‘We lost a great leader’: Berta Caceres still inspires as murder case takes fresh twist. The Guardian

Grandin, G. (2016) ‘Before her murder, Berta Caceres singled out Hillary Clinton for criticism’, The Nation

Malkin, E. (2017) ‘Who ordered killing of Honduran Activist? Evidence of broad plot is found.The New York Times

Pearce, F. (2017) ‘In Honduras, Defending Nature is a Deadly Business’, Yale Environment 360

News related to this chapter

Brazil: map and timeline of rural massacres

As mentioned in Sue Branford & Thais Borges' article (Brazilian Amazon, 3 massaces in 12 days)Brazil's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) has launched a a new website: Massacres in the Countryside. That page will be updated with newly confirmed reports of massacres — a killing involving three or more people. Between 1985 and 2017, CPT recorded 45 massacres in which 214 people in nine states were killed. Pará state saw the largest number of massacres over this period — 26 in all, in which 125 people were killed, over half of the...

Brazil: indigenous reserves to be opened up to mining

New Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced on 4 March that he plans to permit mining on indigenous lands in Brazil, including within the Amazon. He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current ban along a 150-kilometer (93-mile)-wide swath at the frontier.The Bolsonaro administration’s indigenous mining plan is in direct opposition to indigenous land rights as guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The indigenous mining initiative will likely be implemented via a presidential decree, which will almost...

Brazil to build power line across indigenous land

The Brazilian state of Roraima is currently dependent for 70 percent of its power on Venezuela’s Guri hydroelectric dam. But socioeconomic chaos in Venezuela, and deteriorating political relations between the two nations, have caused Brazil to fast-track a 750-kilometer transmission line to replace the imported energy.General Otávio Rêgo de Barros, using a national security justification, has announced that construction will begin at the end of June on a powerline running between the cities of Manaus and Boa Vista, connecting Roraima with Brazil’s national electrical power grid.125 kilometers of...

Argentina: toxic waste from fracking in Patagonia

19 December 2018. A major indigenous group in Argentina has filed a criminal complaint against BP subsidiary Pan American Energy for illegally dumping toxic fracking waste in the “sensitive Patagonian environment”. According to Greenpeace analysis, the “hazardous waste” contains high levels of hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and radioactive elements that pose reproduction and inhalation risks. The waste pools, one of which spans the equivalent of 15 football pitches, sit less than 3 miles from the town of Añelo, indigenous agricultural lands, and the region's principal river. Dumped directly onto unprotected soil with no...

Bolivia: land rights victory for Tsimane people

Even though Bolivia has had a progressive government for more than a decade (one of the last remaining in the region), indigenous rights are still under threat. Deforested clearing made by illegal settlers. Photo: Ricardo Gutierrez Illegal settlements, mining and timber companies are occupying indigenous territories causing tremendous environmental impact and provoking migration to the nearer cities. Indigenous organizations and indigenous leaders have been blackmailed, threatened and persecuted by the government. Many indigenous organizations are losing the strength and capacity to fight back for their lands. However, other organizations have...