Tags / amazonian forests
Kefren Grana, 45, a former teacher, is the Minister of education of the Wampis Nation.Today young people are confused and disorientated between the model of a consumer society learned at school and the traditional values taught by their parents. Kefren promotes the use of hallucinogenic plants fundamental to re-establish a connection with nature: âAyahuasca, tobacco and toe are our university.
Crosses at the Pumping Station 6, on the North Peruvian Pipeline, remember the kidnapped policemen killed during the events of 2009 in Bagua. When, under the Peruvian President Alan Garcia, a set of laws facilitating access to the indigenous lands for the extractive industries, Wampis and Awahun people marched to the nearest city, Bagua, occupying on the way the Station 6 and blocking the main road, which connects the region to the coast. In the clashes that followed, when the police tried to free the road, 34 people, 24 policemen and 10 civilians lost their life. Indigenous organisations claim that, because of the many desaparecidos, the number of civilian can be up to ten times higher. Trials for responsibilities in the massacre are still undergoing.
Children of a primary school during a class about traditional fishing. Barbasco (Lonchocarpus urucu), a smashed root, is mixed with water to poison the fishes, which are then finished with machetes and harpoons. This was the main way of fishing in the past, when nets were not known, but is still widely used today. In recent years, as proposed by Wampis people, classes are complemented with teachings about their traditions.
A family fishes in the upper âquebradaâ Ayampis, one of the many tributaries of Rio Santiago. Quebradas are key to the daily life of Wampis communities as a source of clean water and fishes. Food security is not a problem in the region, an healthy territory can sustain the entire population making their territory priceless. Wampis like to say that the forest is their âsupermarketâ. Amazonian forests are nicknamed âthe lungs of the planetâ for their capacity of fixing carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change. Research from Stanford University estimates that those forests store nearly 17bn tonnes of above-ground carbon, more than three times the USâ annual emissions.
Children play football under torrential rain in Soledad. Wampis families are very individualistic and were used to live dispersed in the forest. Only with the arrival of missionaries and schools in the 1960s they moved and formed communities around the school-buildings.
Children during a primary class in Soledad. School classes, taught in Spanish and in Wampis language, are a strong force of cultural homogenisation, teaching values of a consumeristic society. By contrast Wampis people grow up with an intimate connection with nature and a deep faith that the natural world will provide for all their needs. Education is guaranteed and encouraged by the Peruvian government but higher education is expensive and is possible only in far away cities.
An old man building a trap for ground birds, a construction that can take up to two days and is accompanied by traditional songs. If in the past hunting was performed with blowguns (pukuna), nowadays only few people remember how to prepare the poison, necessary to hunt larger animals, and the weapon of choice became the rifle.
Children sleep during the farewell party of the assembly of the Wampis Nation. As expected, illegal gold miners returned to the Pastacillo site and a new action of the Wampis government has to be expected. The Autonomous Wampis Government notified the National Congress of Peru about its intention to self-rule its ancestral territory.
Lola Tuwiran Juhuo, 42. Comunidad de Galilea (rio Santiago). Former coordinator of Wampis Women (Fechorsa). Consejo de Savios de la Nation Wampis.
Wreis Peres, 55, President (Pamuk) of the Autonomous Government of the Nation Wampis, asking new members to take the oath. The congress consists of 96 representatives from all the villages, the Constitution has 40 pages with detailed provisions on rights and duties of the government and the management of the territory and culture.
Viviana Zamarein Wajuiat, 35. Lederesa de Boca Chinganasa. Consejo de savios?
Tercerp Gonzales Ana Maria, 46. Irunin de la comunidad de Guayabal (Rio Santiago).
Roberto Gonzales Ana Maria, 58. Comunidad de Guayabal (Rio Santiago). Technico infermiero and member of the Consejo de Savios de la Nation Wampis.
Elena, 45, and Rebolio Garcia, 52, respectively Womens Leader and former President of the Indigenous Federation of Rio Morona (OSHDEM). Saphaja community (Rio Morona).
Alejandro Wajai,52, Comunidad de Panguana (Rio Santiago).
Segundo Sinley Tukup Wigui, 47, Comunidad de Ankuash sul Rio Morona, Presidente de Asociacion Nativa Ankuash?
Members of different communities of the Wampis Nation mapping the traditional use of territory along the meandering Morona river. While the communities have parts of their land rights recognized by Peruvian legislation, this does not cover the entire extension of ancestral use (including foraging, hunting and vision seeking). The jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights protects the right of indigenous peoples to own and manage their territories, as defined by ancestral use.
Arrival of the delegations in San Juan de Morona for the Assembly of the Nation Wampis. The travel, by foot and boat, from different parts of the territory lasted up to 4 days.
Female leaders and Members of Parliament on their way to the Assembly of the Wampis Nation. The motivation for the new government grew out of environmental threats and the pending risks of extractive projects. Wampis were inspired to create the new government by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Teenagers drinking and vomiting ayauascha. Incited by their families they will have to drink 20 or more litres of liquid to increase the chances of acquiring a vision. The vision often is conveyed as a secret message by an ancestral spirit taking the form of an animal like a boa, a jaguar or an hummingbird. Not everyone obtains it immediately and the whole process might have to be repeated several times. These visions are seen as predictions of the future and will lead the warriors for the rest of their life. Knowing their future, warriors will have no fear in battles or confronting daily life.
Teenagers resting in a tambo, a construction quickly made with leaves in the forest. They have to spend three days in the forest, fasting, before being introduced to ayahuasca. If during the ceremony they will achieve a vision, they will become visionary warriors.
Visions are essential to the culture of Wampis people, as explained by Andres Noningo, 62: âOur ancestor noticed that the animals speak and even the earth moves and they asked where do these animals come from? What is the origin of the air we breathe, who looks after the trees? What is the origin of life? To seek wisdom our visionaries would spend up to three months in the forest. They taught us that every animal and tree are people just like us and have their guardians which protect them. This is why our ancestors were able to teach us where the animals live, where they reproduce, which lands are fertile and which are unproductive, where we should make a farm and how to hunt with respect, using our anent, sacred songs that ensure we treat all living beings withÂ dignity.â
Jorge ZukankÃ¡, 47, collects ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) for a ritual. Together with tobacco and toÃ© (also known as datura, Brugmansia suaveolens), ayahuasca is used as an hallucinogenic substance to obtain visions and generate a contact with God (Arutam). These plants are also commonly used as a medicine for their purgative and antiparasitic properties.
Shuar youth from the Ecudorian side of Rio Santiago rehearse for a traditional dance during an Ecuador-Peru binational meeting. The Shuar belong to the same ethnic group as the Wampis, sharing language and culture. Three times in the last century (in 1941, 1981, 1995) both sides have been forced to fight in the armies of their governments, in the Peru-Ecuador border wars.
Shuar girls chat with the phone on the Ecuadorian side of Rio Santiago. The presence of a road has accelerated the loss of identity: many indigenous people forgot their languages, houses have doors and lockers, cattle farming and logging are more widespread. The project to build a road through the Wampis territory was part of a reconciliation project after the last war between Ecuador and Peru in 1995, but has been heavily resisted by the Wampis, and is, for now, abandoned.
A man watches out for shoals on Rio Santiago, Peru. In a territory, roughly the size of Connecticut, are living 20,000 people: the Wampis. There are no roads and the two main rivers, Rio Santiago and Rio Morona (Kanus and Kankun respectively in the Wampis language), are the only access to trade and to the outer word. Lima, the capital of Peru, lies on the other side of the Andes, 1,500km away on the desertic Pacific coast.
A man pauses to drink masato, a beverage made of chewed and fermented yucca, during work in a chakra. Chakras are ancestral plots of land belonging to the community but temporarily used by individual families. During the day a family usually spend its time cultivating its chackra. Common harvests include banana and yucca, which constitute the core of the Wampis diet. Little cacao plantations are becoming common, allowing to monetise part of the production. Although money is not essential for survival, is useful to buy petrol for transport, clothes, solar panels and, increasingly, for the higher education of children.
A graffiti in Santa Maria de Nieva remembering the convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation. It reads: âThe indigenous people have the right to choose their model of developmentâ. Established in 1989, ILO-convention 169 is the first international law that recognizes and protects indigenous peoplesâ land ownership rights, and sets a series of binding minimum standards regarding consultation and consent. Ratified by most of South America, including Peru, it is a forerunner of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Illegal gold miners use a draga to extract gold from sediments on the MaraÃ±on river. Aside the direct impact on the landscape, gold mining commonly involve the use of mercury, which contaminates waters as a waste and enters in the food chain. Gold mining is very attractive in the region of Rio Santiago where an estimated 20-120 grams could be harvested by similar machines in a day (between 600 and 3000 $), a large quantity of money in an economically marginalised region.
A canoe navigates upstream the MaraÃ±on river towards the perilous Pongo of Manseriche, a scale for the level of the water helps evaluating the danger. Pongo is the Quechua name for rapids, while Manseriche means âthe frightening gorgeâ. The place has been made famous by Werner Herzog during the first attempt to film his Fitzcarraldo, in the upper MaraÃ±on, before being turned away by a pioneering indigenous organisation, the Consejo Awaruna-Wampis, in 1979. The project of a series of 20 dams has always been looming on the populations of the upper MaraÃ±on. While the minor ones are already in advanced stage of planning the realisation of the biggest one on the Manseriche would flood the whole Rio Santiago.
People at work in the Mayuriaga oil spill. The disaster affected 30 km of quebrada before polluting the largest Rio Morona and affected all the downstream population. The work, still ongoing. will involve almost 500 people for one year. Every piece of soil and vegetation which has been in contact with the crude oil has to be destroyed.
A woman prepares masato in Mayuriaga. Petroperu is now distributing bottled water (right) and food to all the downstream communities. The Mayuriaga community is in the process of asking a compensation for the contamination of a part of territory fundamental for its survival.
On a payday Michael Wampankito Ungum,25, walks the 13 km, which separate Mayuriaga, his community, from the oil spill. Michael is an MP in the Wampis government and works, as many others from its community, to clean the spill for the state oil company Petroperu. This branch of the obsolete North Peruvian Pipeline connects the Tigre region, 200km deeper into the Amazon, to the coast and it has largely overdue its lifetime, making oil spills more and more frequent.
âAfter the âMassacre of Baguaâ, the relation between the Peruvian Government and the indigenous organisations reached a low pointâ, -explains Andres Noningo, 62, member of the Council of the Elders of the Wampis Nation. âWhen the Peruvian government speaks about development,â -he continues, âthey mean the exploitation of our resources: gold, oil, wood. This threatens our livelihoods. Thatâs why we formed our autonomous government, to ensure a good life also for future generationsâ. The claimed âintegral territoryâ of the Wampis includes the underground â dwelling of Nunkui (mother earth) - and Nayaim (the sky), home of the ancestor spirits.
A club in La Poza. The town has a thriving nightlife whereminers can easily spend their wage in beers. HIV and prostitution are reported as emerging problems.
Following the first act of ruling of the Wampis government, 150 warriors head towards the illegal gold mining site of Pastacillo on Rio Santiago. The Peruvian government is currently engaging a much publicised fight against illegal miners, searching and destroying their equipment, but it seems to be ineffective. The Wampis government demands the power to patrol its territory to guarantee a quicker official intervention by Peruvian state agencies.
The chief of the police receives his warrior face painting, as a sign he is an ally in the fight against illegal gold mining.
The site of illegal mining of Pastacillo is invaded by protesters. Miners, previously alerted, hided the machines and suspended their activity for few days.
A busy day in the town of La Poza on Rio Santiago. Situated few hours of navigation away from Santa Maria della Nieva, the only road access to Rio Santiago, the town is booming as a frontier place. Here indigenous people can exchange their money with products sold by settlers and miners can sell their gold.
A woman walks in the destroyed land along the quebrada Pastacillo.
Rogelio Padilla, 43, shows where his family chackra, used to be. âWe cultivated this land since the time of my grandfatherâ, -he says, âbut when illegal miners arrived they behaved as if the land was belonging to themâ. When a forest that could sustain generations is destroyed it impossible to quantify losses for he community.