Thursday, October 1, 2009

This is not just a Peruvian problem.

29 police, 9 Indians wounded in Ecuador protest

LIMA, Peru — Police clashed with Amazon Indians protesting proposed water, oil and mining laws Wednesday, leaving at least 29 police officers and nine Indians wounded, Ecuadorean officials said. Indians said two civilians were killed.

Government Minister Gustavo Jalkh said late Wednesday that Indians wounded the police with pellets often used by jungle hunters. He said police used "progressive force" to clear a highway blockade in Ecuador's southeast Amazon, but denied they fired guns.

Ecuador's Amazon Indian federation, CONFENAIE, said in a communique that two Shuar Indians were killed and nine wounded by gunshots in the clash. They did identify the Indians.

Jalkh said at a news conference that he had a report there might have been one civilian death but he did not have confirmation.

Ecuadorean Indians have blocked highways since Monday to protest the laws. The powerful national Indian confederation, CONAIE, called off the protests the same day amid limited turnout across five provinces, but regional Amazon Indian groups continued the blockades.

President Rafael Correa met with Indian groups Wednesday, though the top Indian confederation did not attend. After eight hours, Indian groups broke off the talks and denounced what they called government repression.

"We declare ourselves in permanent mobilization," Humberto Cholango, a Shuar Indian leader, said at a news conference blaming Correa for Wednesday's violence.

Across the Andean region, Indians are fighting left- and right-wing governments that are pushing ambitious oil and mining-led development plans.

In Peru, a government crackdown at an Amazon highway blockade left at least 23 police and 10 Indians dead in June. The Indians were protesting a packet of pro-investment decrees issued by Peru's conservative government to open their ancestral lands to oil and mining projects.

There also have been sporadic clashes in Chile, where the country's largest Indian tribe is pressing demands for political autonomy by occupying farmland and burning farm machinery.

In Ecuador, CONAIE split with Correa, a popular leftist president, when he refused to grant Indians the right to veto concessions granted to companies exploiting natural resources on their lands under a constitution approved last year.

Indian groups say the proposed laws they are opposing threaten their lands and will privatize water resources. Correa says he has no plans to privatize water resources.

The laws are expected to be passed by the National Assembly, which is controlled by Correa's party and its allies.

So far, this week's disjointed mobilization has paled in comparison to CONAIE protests that helped oust Ecuadorean presidents in 2000 and 2005.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Highway coverage.

Ocaina boy dresses up for traditional dance in the town maloca.

Check out this piece on NPR on the Interoceanic Highway and it's effects on the Amazon and Andes regions of Peru. The photographs are really beautiful.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


<a href="">Jungle Cry by tunes4good</a>

Music with a conscience

Hi Everyone

I am launching a new venture with divine prompting by Satya Sai Baba. When I was in India last month I got the inner sound to create tunes4good which will be an online label dedicated to providing music with a purpose which is to raise funds for service projects around the world. This morning I had a dream about the Bora tribe of the Peruvian Amazon. The man in the picture is Chief Rafael, I have known him since I was fifteen, he is an old family friend who has allowed me to spend time with him and his tribal family over the years and to record and mix his traditional songs. In my dream I saw that his people are in need of help and so I am starting this new chapter of my life with the first song dedicated to the Bora people of the Amazon.. The proceeds from this song will go towards helping the Bora people.. Thank you and please spread the word and this song... If you would like to participate helping people in your country, please contact me..

Om Shri Sai Ram

Monday, June 29, 2009

Great piece from the Independent

The Uprising In The Amazon Is More Urgent Than Iran's - It Will Determine The Future Of The Planet

In the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the poorest people in the world have taken on the richest people in the world

While the world nervously watches the uprising in Iran, an even more important uprising has been passing unnoticed - yet its outcome will shape your fate, and mine.

In the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the poorest people in the world have taken on the richest people in the world to defend a part of the ecosystem none of us can live without. They had nothing but wooden spears and moral force to defeat the oil companies - and, for today, they have won.

Here's the story of how it happened - and how we all need to pick up this fight.

Earlier this year, Peru's President, Alan Garcia, sold the rights to explore, log and drill 70 percent of his country's swathe of the Amazon to a slew of international oil companies. Garcia seems to see rainforest as a waste of good resources, saying of the Amazon's trees: "There are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle."

There was only one pesky flaw in Garcia's plan: the indigenous people who live in the Amazon. They are the first people of the Americas, subject to wave after wave of genocide since the arrival of the Conquistadors. They are weak. They have no guns. They barely have electricity. The government didn't bother to consult them: what are a bunch of Indians going to do anyway?

But the indigenous people have seen what has happened elsewhere in the Amazon when the oil companies arrive. Occidental Petroleum are currently facing charges in US courts of dumping an estimated nine billion barrels of toxic waste in the regions of the Amazon where they operated from 1972 to 2000. Andres Sandi Mucushua, the spiritual leader of the area known to the oil companies as Block 1AB, said in 2007: "My people are sick and dying because of Oxy. The water in our streams is not fit to drink and we can no longer eat the fish in our rivers or the animals in our forests." The company denies liability, saying they are "aware of no credible data of negative community health impacts".

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, according to an independent report, toxic waste allegedly dumped after Chevron-Texaco's drilling has been blamed by an independent scientific investigation for 1,401 deaths, mostly of children from cancer. When the BBC investigator Greg Palast put these charges to Chevron's lawyer, he replied: "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States?... They have to prove it's our crude, [which] is absolutely impossible."

The people of the Amazon do not want to see their forests felled and their lands poisoned. And here, the need of the indigenous peoples to preserve their habitat has collided with your need to preserve your habitat. The rainforests inhale massive amounts of warming gases and keep them stored away from the atmosphere. Already, we are chopping them down so fast that it is causing 25 percent of man-made carbon emissions every year - more than planes, trains and automobiles combined. But it is doubly destructive to cut them down to get to fossil fuels, which then cook the planet yet more. Garcia's plan was to turn the Amazon from the planet's air con into its fireplace.

Why is he doing this? He was responding to intense pressure from the US, whose new Free Trade Pact requires this "opening up", and from the International Monetary Fund, paid for by our taxes. In Peru, it has also been alleged that the ruling party, APRA, is motivated by oil-bribes. Some of Garcia's associates have been caught on tape talking about how to sell off the Amazon to their cronies. The head of the parliamentary committee investigating the affair, Rep. Daniel Abugattas, says: "The government has been giving away our natural resources to the lowest bidders. This has not benefited Peru, but the administration's friends."

So the indigenous peoples acted in their own self-defence, and ours. Using their own bodies and weapons made from wood, they blockaded the rivers and roads to stop the oil companies getting anything in or out. They captured two valves of Peru's sole pipeline between the country's gas field and the coast, which could have led to fuel rationing. Their leaders issued a statement explaining: "We will fight together with our parents and children to take care of the forest, to save the life of the equator and the entire world."

Garcia responded by sending in the military. He declared a "state of emergency" in the Amazon, suspending almost all constitutional rights. Army helicopters opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition and stun-grenades. Over a dozen protesters were killed. But the indigenous peoples did not run away. Even though they were risking their lives, they stood their ground. One of their leaders, Davi Yanomami, said simply: "The earth has no price. It cannot be bought, or sold or exchanged. It is very important that white people, black people and indigenous peoples fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don't fight together what will our future be?"

And then something extraordinary happened. The indigenous peoples won. The Peruvian Congress repealed the laws that allowed oil company drilling, by a margin of 82 votes to 12. Garcia was forced to apologize for his "serious errors and exaggerations". The protesters have celebrated and returned to their homes deep in the Amazon.

Of course, the oil companies will regroup and return - but this is an inspirational victory for the forces of sanity that will be hard to reverse.

Human beings need to make far more decisions like this: to leave fossil fuels in the ground, and to leave rainforests standing. In microcosm, this rumble in the jungle is the fight we all face now. Will we allow a small number of rich people to make a short-term profit from seizing and burning resources, at the expense of our collective ability to survive?

If this sounds like hyperbole, listen to Professor Jim Hansen, the world's leading climatologist, whose predictions have consistently turned out to be correct. He says: "Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with a sea level 75 metres higher. Coastal disasters would occur continually. The only uncertainty is the time it would take for complete ice sheet disintegration."

Of course, fossil fools will argue that the only alternative to burning up our remaining oil and gas supplies is for us all to live like the indigenous peoples in the Amazon. But next door to Peru, you can see a very different, environmentally sane model to lift up the poor emerging - if only we will grasp it.

Ecuador is a poor country with large oil resources underneath its rainforests - but its president, Rafael Correa, is offering us the opposite of Garcia's plan. He has announced he is willing to leave his country's largest oil reserve, the Ishpingo Tmabococha Tiputini field, under the soil, if the rest of the world will match the $9.2bn in revenues it would provide.

If we don't start reaching for these alternatives, we will render this month's victory in the Amazon meaningless. The Hadley Center in Britain, one of the most sophisticated scientific centers for studying the impacts of global warming, has warned that if we carry on belching out greenhouse gases at the current rate, the humid Amazon will dry up and burn down - and soon.

Their study earlier this year explained: "The Amazonian rainforest is likely to suffer catastrophic damage even with the lowest temperature rises forecast under climate change. Up to 40 percent of the rainforest will be lost if temperature rises are restricted to 2C, which most climatologists regard as the least that can be expected by 2050. A 3C rise is likely to result in 75 percent of the forest disappearing while a 4C rise, regarded as the most likely increase this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are slashed, will kill off 85 perfect of the forest." That would send gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere - making the world even more inhabitable.

There is something thrilling about the fight in the Amazon, yet also something shaming. These people had nothing, but they stood up to the oil companies. We have everything, yet too many of us sit limp and passive, filling up our tanks with stolen oil without a thought for tomorrow. The people of the Amazon have shown they are up for the fight to save our ecosystem. Are we?

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent. To read more of his articles, click here or for an archive of his writings about environmental issues, click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From the AP--looks a bit more hopeful.

Peru offers concession to Indians in land dispute

LIMA, Peru (AP) — In a conciliatory move, Peru's government promised Amazon Indians on Monday to ask Congress to revoke decrees that native groups say would make it easier to exploit their lands for oil, gas and other development.

Indigenous peoples' anger over the decrees spurred two months of blockades of roads and rivers that turned violent on June 5 when police opened fire on activists at a roadblock.

At least 24 police officers and nine civilians were killed, according to the government. Indigenous leaders said at least 30 Indians were killed and accused police of hiding bodies.

Cabinet chief Yehude Simon signed a conciliatory pact after a four-hour meeting with leaders of 390 indigenous communities Monday in the central jungle town of San Ramon, the state news agency Andina reported. It said the 12-point agreement specified the government would present Congress by Thursday with a proposal to revoke the decrees.

Environment Minister Antonio Brack, a member of the government delegation, said it also offered to end a state of emergency and curfew in Amazonas state, where the June 5 melee occurred.

He said Indian leaders promised in return to end a blockade that has cut a key road into the central Amazon.

At a news conference, Simon said President Alan Garcia's attempt to encourage what he called environmentally friendly development had been misinterpreted by the Indians. He said dialogue is now important to build "confidence that has been lost," vowing the government "will defend the Amazon from indiscriminate logging and will defend it against environmental contamination."

Although Peru's main Amazon Indian federation, AIDESEP, did not participate in Monday's talks, it will join talks with the government that are to begin immediately in Lima, Andina reported.

The government had previously spurned Indian attempts to be consulted about the fate of development in the Amazon region.

"We don't reject dialogue. On the contrary, dialogue and peace in the Amazon is what we want," Ruben Binari, a leader of the Machiguenga people in the Urubamba region, told The Associated Press.

Congress indefinitely suspended the controversial decrees last Wednesday, a day ahead of a nationwide wave of mostly peaceful anti-government protests.

The decrees, including a forestry law widely interpreted as promoting biofuel crops and logging, were among several promulgated by Garcia to comply with a free trade agreement with the United States that took effect in January.

The leader of the Amazon protests, AIDESEP President Alberto Pizango, remained in Nicaragua's embassy Monday. He sought refuge there after sedition and rebellion charges were filed against him. Nicaragua granted him political asylum but he has not received safe passage out of Peru.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This is what the Peruvian gov't has released regarding the violence. I can't believe they are still only saying that 9 indigenous protestors died.

The Embassy of Peru would like to state that our Government very much regrets the loss of lives of both the policemen and indigenous protesters, and hopes for the prompt recovery of all those injured.

For the past two months and even when violence erupted, Peruvian authorities had been working in good faith to identify and solve through peaceful dialogue some claims raised by indigenous peoples who were concerned about the impact that legislation recently enacted on the exploitation of oil, gas and other resources might have on certain lands.

This legislation guarantees 12 million hectares for the benefit of 400,000 Peruvian Amazonian ethnic people and protects 15 million hectares that had been granted the status of ecological sanctuaries and natural parks.

Unfortunately, some people who took upon themselves to lead the indigenous people were interested in upsetting democracy and affecting the Peruvian population as a whole. Hence, they misled the indigenous people into organising violent protests, disrupting water and energy supplies and blockading roads and pipelines.

Ultimately, they also took hostages among policemen sent to prevent further disruption of public services, tortured them and killed 22 of them after they had surrendered to the mob.

In addition, nine indigenous protesters died, 24 policemen and 155 people were left injured and 72 were placed under remand to be charged before Peruvian courts.

Once the violence subdued, individuals who misled the indigenous people escaped to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, among them Alberto Pizango who chaired an organisation called AIDESEP which has been receiving donations whose use in benefit of the indigenous population is yet to be explained.

Nevertheless, other indigenous leaders who are clearly more representative of their people have expressed their willingness to resume working with the authorities to clarify their claims and to solve them peacefully as well as to contribute to enquiries to determine the responsibility of those who enticed violent actions. Among the actions being taken in the aftermath of the protests is the Constitutional Court of Peru will assess provisions in the legislation that the indigenous people consider as affecting their interests and amend them if that is the case.

Charge d’Affaires,
Embassy of Peru.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

From Amnesty International

Peru: Fear for safety of demonstrators in custody

Posted: 10 June 2009

Amnesty International has expressed concern for the safety of the scores of demonstrators from Indigenous communities in the Amazon who have been detained after they were forcibly dispersed in the town of Bagua last weekend.

Clashes between the police and the protestors resulted in at least nine Indigenous people and 24 police officers being killed and at least 200 injured, including 31 police officers. The number of protestors killed is feared to be higher.

Amnesty International has received reports of excessive use of force by police, as well as cases of police officers being abducted and killed by members of Indigenous communities.

According to the Office of the Ombudsperson, 79 people are in police and army custody. However, it is not clear how they are being treated, what they have been charged with, and whether they have access to medical care or legal assistance.

So far, the government has given no details of those injured or detained.

Amnesty International's Peru Researcher, Nuria Garcia said:

'We are seeking assurance from the authorities in Peru to ensure the safety of the protestors who are being detained.

'In particular we're calling on the authorities to ensure that all the detainees who were injured during last weekend's protests are receiving access to medical care and they must also publish a full list of all those being detained, including the places of their detention.'

According to local sources, some of the protestors who have been injured are not receiving adequate medical care, as local health centres are not well equipped.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This Democracy Now clip is the most comprehensive coverage that I've seen of what is going on in the Amazon

AAAARgh, I don't even know how to write about this right now. People are dying and the situation is getting worse. I knew it was bad in the beginning, but I had no idea the lengths that Garcia will go to to get what he wants (money, he wants money--that's what he wants). This is the worst violence seen in Peru since The Shining Path in the 1990's. It's been reported that Peruvian police threw tear gas and shot at still-sleeping protesters who were blocking the road.

I'm glad that Pizago is safe in Nicaragua right now (he had a judge order his arrest for sedition and inciting violence) and that the rest of the world is hearing about the deaths of so many (including Peruvian police officers) and this awareness is getting out, despite its vast costs. I am so impressed that the indigenous movement has been able to educate and organize itself into a unified movement despite some serious opposition and that they are going to keep going to no matter what to protect their land.

It's scary to think what more could happen but it also shows the extent of their love for their land and how many avenues that are taking to achieve it. AIDESEP (who we interviewed for "Spirit Songs") is one of the best organized indigenous movements in South America. I love it when Alberto Pizango names specific United Nations doctrine to defend his position that the indigenous people need to be advised when their land is being given away.

Is that really so much to ask? Would Garcia really want to start this kind of violence in Peru again, after so many years of peaceful growth?

It's also scary because Ollanta, the super nationalistic, pro-military, friend of Chavez guy who lost against Garcia in 2006 has immediately stepped up to defend the indigenous movement. He's running for president again in 2011 and I would not like to see him gain this sudden popularity for being with the people--I think he'd be a pretty scary president too.

I'll keep updating as I learn more--in the meantime, please keep this situation in your thoughts and start talking about it to the people in your life. As international awareness that grows, it will become harder and harder for Garcia to do exactly what he wants as the jungle and its people suffer his consequences.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking back the river

Peru's Amazon protesters withdraw insurgency call

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Indigenous groups protesting laws opening Peru's Amazon to oil and natural resource development said Saturday they would withdraw a call for an insurgency against the government, but vowed to press ahead with their protests.

Indian leader Alberto Pizango said the government misinterpreted the use of the term insurgency in his group's declaration on Friday, and "for that reason we are withdrawing it."

"But the mobilization of the Amazon people will continue within the rule of law," said the president of the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of Peru's Jungle, which leads a movement that has blocked roads, waterways and a state oil pipeline since April.

The government had warned that anyone participating in an uprising could be charged with sedition. On Saturday, it authorized the armed forces to support police in quelling protests and guaranteeing services in five Amazon provinces.

The protests, against decrees aligning Peruvian law with a free-trade deal with the United States, have affected production at oil wells owned by Argentina's Pluspetrol, French-English Perenco, Petroperu and Talisman.

President Alan Garcia defended the laws as needed to help impoverished Peru develop.

"We have to understand that when there are resources like oil, gas, wood ... they don't belong to the group that had the good fortune to be born there, because that would mean that more than half of Peru's territory belongs to a few thousand people," the president said Saturday.

But Amazon groups say the laws would pave their way for their ancestral lands to be taken over by multinational companies.

The protests involve some 30,000 Indians across six provinces.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's scary how many of these articles I come across

From Indian Country Today:
Peru prez Alan Garcia wants foreign oil companies to have native land and it doesn't look like much can stop him, except for all us superheros that is.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A few pictures--so you'll get the idea.

Little girl in the Bora tribe.

Hector, shaman and teacher of our close friend Cesar, drinks a mixture of tobacco and ayahuasca during a ceremony outside of Iquitos.

We are smiling even though we are covered in mosquitos because we love the jungle that much.

Two exotic jungle animals.

This sloth was a surprise the morning we left the jungle lodge. Doesn't she look like an angel in the face and a little creepy in the claw?

Hi friends, I'm happy to report that we are all safely back in the States now and feeling pretty good about this past month. It was a really great trip--we accomplished all of our filming goals and then some. It was challenging, but it also felt easy in the way that we kept meeting the right people at the right time. It felt like we were in the flow. We not only met people in the communities we visited, but I really think that we made friends and established a deeper trust (una confianza, si pe) so that we can keep coming back in the future. We recorded a lot of songs and interviews and I took many pictures. I'm proud of us--I think we did a really good thing by bringing attention to these songs. It will take us a while to get everything logged and edited and polished-up, but I wanted you all to see a few pictures. I'll keep posting more in the weeks to come so keep checking in.

Again, thank you to everyone for your donations to the project. They helped so much. Also, it's not too late to donate so contact us if you are interested in supporting "Spirit Songs."


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sacred Music Mixes


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back from Pevas

We arrived safely from our 9 day filming trip on the Ampiyacu river near the city of Pevas. We visited five different Amazonian communites, heard four distinct tribal languages (one of them, Ricigaro has less than 5 people in the community who speak it), and saw how each community has been able to hold on to their unique customs while living so close to other tribes. One village had a line drawn down the middle--one side spoke Bora and the other side spoke Huitodo which apparently sound nothing alike. Fascinating. We also visited the tribal elders in each community and were able to record their songs, which were unlike anything I´ve heard before.

There is a lot to be excited about in these communities and a lot of what we were expecting. Everyone is talking about oil companies coming in and wondering what their approach should be when they start offering these depressed communities large sums of money for access to their lands and waters. All of the shamans we meet at least in their 60´s and so far, we haven´t seen any apprentices to pass on their traditions. We are hoping that our presence has been able to show them that the outside world is interesting in hearing more, that these things are worth saving.

Ever bit of our trip has been so well-documented by our talented team, but unfortunately Iquito´s finest internet cafe does not have computers that read RAW files (big professional photographer files), so I may not be able to get any pictures up until after I get back home. I´ll start pestering Phil to upload some of his pictures.

We are going to spend two days recording the beautiful songs of our shaman friend Cesar during his ayahuasca ceremonies. He actually came with us as a guide on our trip and after spending so much time with him, I am just amazed by what a powerful, angelic man he is. I have never seen someone rest so fully, jump to action so readily when he is needed, and laugh so hard when our other guide Ramon´s hammock fell from its post with him in it. Spending time with him has been one of the highlights of the trip for me and I cant wait to share his healing songs with you all. There is talk of him coming to the States soon.

As always, there is more I´d like to say but there is work to be done. The day is hot and busy outside and its always interesting to think of ourselves in the city of 400,000 people that is buried within all this greenness. It makes me feel really small and young before it all--a kind of reverence with a smile in its eyes.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Bora people

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I am writing on a rainy night from ¨Cyber,¨an internet cafe in the plaza de armas of Iquitos. All the buildings are shabby with tall ceilings--reminders of the elegance of the rubber boom. Young children roam the streets selling beaded bracelets and little boxes of gum that loses its flavor in less than 5 minutes. There is a constant hum from the swarms of motorcycles and mototaxis that navigate the streets (many of which are named after nearby rivers) and any car that cuts across theon the road looks like an instant predator.

The trip is off to a successful start. After two weeks filming the effects of the Interoceanic highway in Madre de Dios, Rebecca and Ryan arrived in Iquitos this weekend and were reunited with Laura, who has been here for over a month studying plant medicines. Phil and I flew into Lima on Sunday night and spend a day trying to navigate Lima´s chaotic transportation system and finally getting a meeting with the communications director of Peru´s indigenous movement, AIDESEP, who told us essentially that South American countries are biding their time by selling the rights to these tracks of land between themselves and the people of the jungle are prepared to take up arms against anyone who tries to invade their land.

We leave tomorrow for 10 days to travel by overnight river boat to Pevas and from there we will travel to a town farther up river to ask permission to attend a meeting of tribal leaders to discuss the problem of encroaching oil prospectors. Our guides will be Walter, the son of the nearby Bora tribe, and Cesar, a trusted shaman who we have known for years. They have assured us that by accompanying us we will be accepted by the tribal leaders, so for now we can only hope for the best.

Even in the city we have been able to record the songs and dances of the Bora people and a few amazing local shamans. So many people warn us that we need to be careful here are there are many shamans who cater to travelers just to make money and are not working for the best interest of the jungle and her medicines. We are lucky that we have been able to witness the work of these talented shamans who have been able to use these plants to develop their intuitions and healing powers.

It´s good to be back in Peru and its different pace of life. I love the sing-song accent of the people here and the few times we have been able to escape the city to quiet, verdant jungle. We hope these next 10 days will be full of songs, stories and a few safe adventures.

Thanks to everyone who has donated to ¨Spirit Songs.¨Your donations are being used for equipment, transportation costs, and to pay our local guides.

We will update again after we return from our trek.

With love,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gracy unearthed these thoughts from a previous trip to Peru:

"we are lovers and dreamers because we become like the water in the constant pursuit of moving and shaking what the universe has bestowed upon us in its perfect dicition of saturday afternoon picnics. we refuse to stagnate, withdraw, give-up, escape for more than a few hours at a time. we see life for the process and have always loved happiness for its sexy elusiveness. in turn, we have learned to love her twin sister of heartbreak and how it comes to leave us a different person, knowing more about beauty and kindness than we thought possible. we believe in: dancing as prayer, chewing slowing, asking questions and listening to the answers, impromptu morning mass on deserted mountain tops, delirious gratitude, homemade bread, riveting conversation, and cups of tea when the moment requires rest. we are not afraid of change, our bodies, getting older, technology, confusion, bursts of anger, or the elusiveness of everything we seek. we have learned to sit still to see that which reaches beyond us and connects every single part of this world. by seeing the connection, we finally know there is no more need to fight. we are fed by each other, lessons learned, children´s sticky faces, treetops waving in the breeze, and above all, the love that loves to love us. we tough it out, we change, and we will change this world through consideration, compost piles of ideas, and a willingness to laugh in the face of anything that seems too big, too closed, or too difficult. we make loving look good..."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peru: Colombian state oil company set to enter uncontacted tribal lands

Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol is set to enter territory inhabited by some of the world's last uncontacted indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon under an agreement reached this week. Ecopetrol signed a deal with Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras, which has a contract to explore in two regions—both inhabited by uncontacted tribes.

"Through its affiliate in Perú, Ecopetrol entered into two agreements with Petrobras Energía del Perú, S.A. to acquire shared [sic] in two exploration and production blocks in Perú," reads a statement from Ecopetrol. "In the first block (Lot 110), Ecopetrol will have a 50% share. In the second (Lot 117), the company's holding will be 25%."

Lot 110 covers almost all of a reserve supposedly set aside for uncontacted Murunahua bands who are exceedingly vulnerable to any contact with outsiders because of their lack of immunity to disease. Some Murunahua have already been contacted by illegal loggers; an estimated 50% of them were wiped out as a result.

Secoya and Kichua also inhabit the territory along the Napo and Putumayo rivers, in the north of municipal province Maynas, Loreto region. The lands in question are part of the Güeppí Reserve, officially put aside as a protected area in 1997. Lot 117 also includes part of a proposed reserve for uncontacted indigenous peoples. The creation of the reserve is supported by local Organización Regional de Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente (ORPIO) and national Amazonian indigenous organization AIDESEP.

The deal with Ecopetrol comes immediately after representatives from indigenous communities said they would not allow Petrobras to explore in Lot 117. "Yet again President Garcia's government is ignoring the International Labour Organization's Convention 169 and the United Nation's Declaration on Indigenous Rights," said AIDESEP's president, Alberto Pizango, on the decision to allow Petrobras to work in the region.

Survival International director Stephen Corry said: "It's possible Ecopetrol don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for: the land they’ve just agreed to explore is inhabited by uncontacted tribes. By working there, Ecopetrol will break international law and violate the rights of some of the most vulnerable people on earth." (Survival International, UK, March 20; Radio La Voz de la Selva, March 20 via Coordinadora Nacional de Radio-CNR, Peru)

Submitted by WW4 Report on Tue, 03/24/2009 - 01:42.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Ryan and I have been in Puerto Maldonado, a city in the Southern Peruvian Amazon, for over a week now --- yet hardly anyone has heard a peep from us. The story of our first time meeting Julio Cusurichi, a leader in the indigenous rights movement here, might help explain our mysterious disappearance.
But I want to preface it with a little context. I lived in Peru for a year in 2004, and one lesson about this culture that has saved me some pain is: the people here value flexiblity in their lives. Which means they might not get back to you right away -- or ever. Things happen and they prioritize on a day-to-day basis. I love this lesson of staying in the moment, even though on my frustrated days, I also call it inefficiency and disorganized.
That said, Julio Cusurichi is unlike any Peruvian I´ve ever met.
The day we flew in, Ryan and I found a hotel and then immediately set out to find Julio at his house. His wife said he was at a meeting and didn´t know when he would be back. That was on a Friday afternoon, so Ryan and I went back to the hotel and started to take a nap, thinking we wouldn´t see him til Monday.
An hour later, there was a knock on our door. There was Julio. He was wearing a vest with indigenous design, which told me quite a bit about him immediately. In many small towns in Peru, if you are wearing a fisherman-looking utility vest -- the ones with a bunch of pockets, you must be someone important, like an engineer. Julio´s vest symbolizes exactly what he is. It´s a white, calming color vest with lines connecting splashes of color together .
That´s Julio.
Even more that....Julio coming to seek us out told me that he really believed in his cause. Not everyone would make an extra trip on a Friday afternoon, when most people here (and many parts of the world) leave a little early from work.
We spoke lightly in our hotel about the work that he is doing here, but I was really not prepared to see his reality.
Julio told us to come to his house at 4am the next morning because they were about to aire the first indigenous radio program at 5am on Radio Aurora. It´s a local radio station housed in the back of a small bodega.
The radio hosts were three energetic and nervous journalism students: Juan, Celia and Marissa. They were all going through a program that Julio initiated to train indigenous people to become journalists and show the world firsthand what´s going on here. They are learning everything from video editing to radio programming.
Ultimately, Julio believes the new weapon of the indigenous rights´movement is information. It makes me feel empowered to be a storyteller and walk among these warriors.
One thing Julio talked on the program was the effects of the InterOceanic Highway, the highway that runs from Brazil to Peru and cuts straight through the Amazon. It has been a 10-year project that is set to be completed this year.
¨Globalization is a word that´s used to explain the expansion of the highways here and exportation. It´s good in theory, but in practice it´s something different. How can they build a highway in our country without reaching out to the public, training them in modern ways and finding an international market for our products? Without doing this, the highway will only benefit the loggers and exporters.¨
That day was an 18-hour day with Julio ---- going from that radio show, a workshop on how to improve local economy in the indigenous communities, an interview with local celebrity Domingo Marquez and then to his TV news program, and finally a meeting to protest a judge who had just been appointed after spending five years in jail for corruption.
At the radio station, he handed me a schedule, which consisted of a list of meetings he was hosting that week. It also had about five interviews that he set up for us, all on Friday night after we spoke. In this week, Ryan and I have already visited two communities, one three hours away by canoe and one three hours down the InterOceanic highway. We´ve met so many incredibly strong, honest and dedicated movers, which we will continue to write about.
If you have any desire to come and meet Julio, I´d recommend it. It´s amazing here, and we´ll continue to tell you why in these next blog entries.
Much love,

Monday, January 5, 2009


What does Rimaniku mean?

From the Ayacucho Quechua language, 'rimaniku' is the first person plural exclusive of 'speak.'
So it means, "we (not you) speak."

For all i know this could be bad info, but the word 'rimaniku' is still a good word i think.