Indigenous Peoples Still Fighting to Protect ‘Living Forests’ and Way of Life

Maria Clara Valencia

Maria Clara Valencia

Indian Country
September 24th, 2016
By: Maria Clara Valencia

Sarayakus fight for sacred places

In 2012 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of the Sarayaku in the case of Sarayaku v. Ecuador, affirming the right of free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples. The Sarayaku fought against the state because a foreign oil company was allowed to encroach on their traditional lands in the 1990s.

But despite losing the trial “the government has continued to award oil titles in the surroundings of Sarayaku’s land and even inside,” said Paula Gualinga, director of International Relations for the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, in Ecuador, in an interview with ICTMN.

“But we are still fighting and we want to declare parts of our land that are pristine, sacred places.”

The Sarayakus are also promoting the recognition of “living forests.” “It means  that in the forests there are not only rivers, trees and animals. It is also the habitat of beings that have the duty to balance the ecosystems, to give continuity to nature,” Gualinga explained. “If those spiritual beings disappear there will be chaos, it will be a catastrophe.”

Gualinga said that those beings are not just spirits, but beings just like you and me. “Their function is to take care of Mother Earth.” Sarayaku’s people believe that the reason why the actual efforts on conservation are not working is because the lack of recognition to these beings.

The proposal says that “recognizing rights of nature means that human activities and development must not interfere with the ability of ecosystems to absorb their effects, to regenerate their natural capacities, to thrive and evolve, and requires that those responsible, including corporate actors, be held fully accountable for negative impacts on.”

“Our proposal goes beyond the mere conservation. We are talking about the rights of indigenous populations, the rights of nature and the rights of those creatures protecting the ecosystems,” she added.

The idea of “living forests” was launched during the climate summit that took place last December in Paris, France.


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