Since 2007 the Santis have been legally prohibited from practicing commercial tourism in their “Purina Tambu”, Reserve territory, around the confluence of the Llushin and Kuyuimi rivers. The 1200ha reserve is ancestral territory of the clan that they have recovered by means of private purchase of seven smallholdings over the previous 20 years. The land was colonized over the previous 60 years, with colonists being given legal title through applying for “effective possession” by clearing 50ha of land. The government’s Department of Land Reform and Colonization eagerly encouraged settlement of these lands, and dispossession of local indigenous nationalities. This territory abuts the Sangay National Park, which was formed in 1979 but was never clearly delineated.
With the Correa administration on 2007 and its “environmentalist” policies, the Sangay National Park was delineated, and the Santis were told their landholdings lie within the bounds of the National Park and therefore are not legitimate claims, regardless of the legal title they hold. They have tried for ten years to cooperate with the Ministry of Environment, adhering to the regulations of Protected Areas, whilst presenting management proposals to co-direct the conservation and sustainable development of the territory with Sangay National Park. But their proposals have been consistently rejected on the grounds that the smallholdings lie within the bounds of the National Park, and are state property and responsibility.
In the month of January 2018 a meeting was achieved with the sub-Secretary of the Protected Areas Department of the Ministry of Environment. It is the first time in 10 years that the state has responded to their requests for dialogue. The sub-Secretary assured them that they had a legal right to title and co-management of these territories as ancestral landholdings, and was concerned that local officials of the Ministry and the Colonization Department had been blocking their efforts for dialogue. He promised Amazanga Community his support to resolve the issue.
It is a positive step but still requires a lot of work to follow up and hold the sub-Secretary to his word. The first step is to secure the resources and legal services to merge the seven land-titles into a collective holding of the Amazanga Community – something they have not done in the past to avoid inviting oppression from the government and pro-oil factions in the province.
The Santis are committed to bringing visitors into their reserve, Eternal Forest of the Children, for ancestral teachings, to experience the medicine of sacred sites, and to practice traditional living. A group is shortly to visit from Vancouver, so with a financial contribution forwarded from them, the Santis have gone into the reserve to clear trails and build a new cabin for international visitors to the Wayusa School.
Windfall is constant in the Highland Amazon, and after several years without maintenance it was a huge job to clear the 12km of trail within the reserve territory. Rafael, Flavio, and international ally Kes went in for 3 days accompanying Bayron, Kushi, and Tsikuanga, who stayed another 5 days to complete the trail-clearing and re-building of the “Purina Tambu” seasonal house, which after 15 years was now falling into disrepair.
All of the wood to frame this 7m x 5m cabin came from windblown trees within 100m of the site of the original house. Tin roofing has been hiked in to preserve the numerous palms that would be required for a thatched roof. One tree was felled to provide wood for the floor and wall boards.
All of the work was done by members of the Amazanga Community, using just a chainsaw, a hammer, a bag of nails and several machetes.
These photos review the first 3 days of construction and maintenance. More photos soon, but the house is complete! Many thanks to the Vancouver circles for forwarding the resources…