Course:FRST370/Projects/Management of land encroachment on their ancestral territory by the Achuar Indigenous People of Peru

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Abstract:

Underlying the modern colonially drawn boarder of Ecuador and Peru within the Western Amazonian basin lies the ancestral territory of the Achuar Tribe (Pachamama Alliance, Sine datum). Securing land tenure title from two separate governments creates challenges. Especially when colonial dominance resides due to an abundance of oil located within the disputed territory.

Due to the areas remoteness, the Achuar tribe have remained relatively undisturbed (Pachamama Alliance, Sine datum). Conflict began as oil companies began exploiting the area in search of new reserves (Orta-Martinez and Finer, 2010). Where after, a cacophony of conflicts arose: war, the introduction of foreign disease and even cases of cancer caused by oil pollution (Hurtig and San Sebastian, 2002) amongst many other impacts (Collyns, 2008 and Collyns, 2009) have degraded a previously undamaged way of life.

As disputes continue the Achuar tribe must overcome trans-boundary, multidirectional land encroachment struggles against very well-articulated and egotistical oil companies, paired with unsympathetic governments. 

Contents:

  • Introduction to the Achuar People of Peru
  • Peru, its location, its history.
  • Tenure titles
  • Affected stakeholders
  • Interested stakeholders
  • Timeline of events
  • Encroachment and conflicts
  • Discussion
  • References

Introduction:

The Achuar tribe are a peaceful indigenous group found within the Amazonian basin on the Ecuadorian, Peruvian boarder. Previously living a nomadic lifestyle, they have begun settling as land pressure becomes more competitive from neighbouring communities as well as an overarching attempt from petroleum companies to explore the area in search of new drilling opportunities [1] .

Peru, its location, its history:

Peru is found within the Southern reaches of Latin America, having been (like most of the region) colonised by the Spanish in the 16th Century the nation has continually fought for the freedom of its people. This is reflected by an extraordinary number of the population being of first nation origin.

Tenure titles:

According to Peruvian statutory law, the Achuar people have land tenure title to all of their unceded, ancestral territory within Peru. They are the land owners and have full rights to harvest, manage and exclude others from their territory. This right however, is not followed by the government. 

Affected stakeholders:

Stakeholder Reasoning
Achuar men The men within the Achuar are a particularly affected group as they fight against any encroachment leading to over 250 deaths due to the tensions. These protectors of the Achuar tribe aim to maintain the drawn boundaries of their ancestral territory.
Achuar women and children The women and children are also affected stakeholders for two main reasons. The first being those who loose male family members who fight for their protection. Secondly, due to oil explorations there has been a drastic increase in the level of deaths caused by cancer primarily due to water contamination.
Neighbouring indigenous groups All surrounding indigenous groups I would argue are directly affected. Not primarily by the impact of the loss of Achuar ancestral territory, but due to the precedent it sets. The Achuar being one of the largest groups in the region maintain a power to defend their lands. Any group bordering the Achuar will feel increased encroachment on their ancestral lands not only form oil companies, but also escaping members of the Achuar people.

Interested stakeholders:

Stakeholder Reasoning
Other Peruvian indigenous groups Should the Achuar be removed from the land, other indigenous groups found on other oil fields can also presume to be removed from their lands.

The Achuar are at the centre of focus currently, purely due to the size and expected profit from the oil field they are found upon.

Peruvian military and police force During riots from the Achuar, both police and subsequently military have been called to supress and even kill members of the Achuar. In one clash nine police officers were killed.
Specific oil companies These oil companies have received government approval to exploit the land owned by the Achuar.
All other oil companies Oil companies looking at the surrounding areas also known to have oil will use the Achuar as a case study to persuade the government to allow their exploitation.
Peruvian government The government currently undermines and ignores statutory rights of the Achuar to have complete control over their own lands. They do this in search of profit from oil taxes.
   
   
   

Timeline of events:

1600’s – First contact –Spanish 1524 huge small pox outbreak in Peru (Achuar unharmed but may have been influenced)

1824 – Spanish expelled from Peru - independence

1920’s – Peru grants oil concessions

1941 - Ecuador and Peruvian war

1950’s – General Odria came to power – began land invasion

1960’s – ‘Second’ contact by missionaries (where from)

1964 – Oil discovered in Amazonian basin

1979 – 1985 – Peru oil boom

1980’s – Achuar shamans vision and dreams

1985-1990 – President Alan Garcia

1993 – Hydrocarbon law 26221

2004-2007 – Six new oil concessions overlapping entirety of the Achuar territory

2006-2011 – President Alan Garcia (FTA agreement)

2009 – Bagua riot by Achuar blocking roads (250 indigenous deaths)

2009 – 41.2% of Peruvian forest owned and covered by oil companies. 55.2% overlap with indigenous communities.

Encroachment and conflict:

Since the discovery of oil within the Amazonian river basin, the Achuar have been under attack from several oil companies looking to exploit their ancestral territory. This pressure mounted until conflicts occurred in both 2008 and 2009. These conflicts lead to the death of around 250 Achuar people. Even after this, the Achuar are still under siege from the same large oil corporations who are working with the Peruvian government. 

Discussion:

The Achuar people of Peru offer a unique case study in that it is arguably rare that a first nations legal tenure holder can be usurped from their lands by the same government sworn to protect them under statutory obligations simply for a larger pay-out from American Corporations. To have a title holder treated as a negative externality despite continual conflict between the two ‘interest groups’ which has caused deaths on both sides is somewhat baffling. The Achuar are working hard to understand fully, their legal standing and how to combat this encroachment in a more organised and peaceful manner. This is certainly not the end of the story as developments continue, but hopefully every step is one in the right direction. 

References:

[1] Collyns, D. (2008). Peru tribe battles oil giant over pollution. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7306639.stm>. Accessed: 12-10-2018.

[2] Collyns, D. (2009). Peru polarised after deadly clashes. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8093729.stm>. Accessed: 12-10-2018.

[3] Hurtig, A.K., San Sebastian, M. (2002). Geographical differences in cancer incidence in the Amazon basin of Ecuador in relation to residence near oil fields. International Journal of Epidemiology, 31, 1021-1027.

[4] La Torre Lopez, L. (1999). All we want is to live in peace: Lessons learned from oil operations in indigenous territories of the Peruvian Amazon. Working group Racimos de Unugurahui / Netherlands Committee for IUCN the world conservation Union, Lima.

[5] Orta-Martinez, M., Napolitano, D.A., MacLennan, G.J., O’Callaghan, C., Ciborowski, S., Fabregas, X. (2007). Impacts of petroleum activities for the Achuar people of the Peruvian Amazon: summary of exisiting evidence and research gaps. Environmental Research Letters, 4, 045006.

[6] Orta-Martinez, M. and Finer, M. (2010). Oil frontiers and indigenous resistance in the Peruvian Amazon. Ecological Economic, 70, 207-218.

[7] Pachamama Alliance. (Sine datum). The Achuar: Ancient people of Ecuador. <https://www.pachamama.org/achuar>. Accessed: 12-10-2018.

[8] Scanlon, J.R. (2012). Indigenous Communities in Peru and the Peruvian Nation State. <http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/honorscollege_theses/104>.

Accessed: 09-11-208.

[9] Stocks, A. (2005). Too much for too few: problems of indigenous land rights in Latin America. Annual Review of Anthropology, 34, 85-104.  

  1. 1.0 1.1 Collyns, D (2008). "Peru tribe battles oil giant over pollution". new.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help). 
  2. Collyns, D (2009). "Peru polarised after deadly clashes". 
  3. Hurtig, A.K., San Sebastian, M. (2002). "Geographical differences in cancer incidence in the Amazon basin of Ecuador in relation to residence near oil fields". International Journal of Epidemiology. 31: 1021–1027. 
  4. La Torre Lopez, L. (1999). "All we want is to live in peace: Lessons learned from oil operations in indigenous territories of the Peruvian Amazon". Working group Racimos de Unugurahui / Netherlands Committee for IUCN the world conservation Union, Lima. 
  5. Orta-Martinez, M., Napolitano, D.A., MacLennan, G.J., O’Callaghan, C., Ciborowski, S., Fabregas, X. (2007). "Impacts of petroleum activities for the Achuar people of the Peruvian Amazon: summary of existing evidence and research gaps". Environmental Research Letters. 4. 
  6. Orta-Martinez, M. and Finer, M. (2010). "Oil frontiers and indigenous resistance in the Peruvian Amazon". Ecological Economic. 70: 207–218. 
  7. Pachamama Alliance (Sine Datum). "The Achuar: Ancient people of Ecuador".  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. Scanlon, J.R. (2012). "Indigenous Communities in Peru and the Peruvian Nation State". 
  9. Stocks, A> (2005). "Too much for too few: problems of indigenous land rights in Latin America". Annual Review of Anthropology. 34: 85–104.