Over the past 6 months, ClearWater has supported a group of youth from the indigenous nationalities of the northern Ecuadorian Amazon who have been taking a GIS mapping course at the University of San Francisco in Quito (USFQ). Students are learning the skills and technologies necessary to produce professional and detailed maps. Maps have long been a tool used by colonizers to subjugate indigenous peoples. Our hope is that maps can become a tool for empowerment, used by the indigenous nationalities to strengthen their own voices and defend their rights. ClearWater will continue to support this group of students as they produce maps and carry out projects for the benefit of each nationality after the course ends. We asked the students why mapping is important to them and what they hope to accomplish with these new skills. This is what they had to say.
Hernán Payaguaje, San Pablo Community, Secoya Nationality
“As the coordinator for the mapping program I am responsible for all the students. I have to make sure everyone is participating, completing the tasks, and that they are not left behind. If they don’t understand something I try to help them figure it out. I think the program has been a success so far. Everyone is learning and working on their projects. Everyone talks about the work they want to do for their nationalities after the course finishes.” When asked why he took on the responsibility of being the coordinator, Hernán responded, “I believe that mapping is very important for the protection of the rainforest and the nationalities’ territories. All the indigenous nationalities face similar problems. We must face these problems together by learning together and supporting one another. After the course finishes I hope that we will continue to support one another in the fight to defend our lands. I hope that the Secoya people can work with the Waorani and the Cofán [etc.] to make maps, delineate territories, and create life plans. This is my hope.”
All the indigenous nationalities face similar problems. We must face these problems together by learning together and supporting one another.
Marcia Enqueri, Bamointare Community, Waorani Nationality
“I have learned a lot in this course about mapping and how maps can be used to teach people about the land. I hope my work can help my nationality protect our sacred places and our traditions.”
Raúl Piaguaje, Sotosiaya Community, Siona Nationality
“I want to help create a good life plan (Plan de Vida) for the Siona people.” When asked why it’s important that he have the skills to help the Siona create their life plan he responded, “Oh! Because otherwise someone else, maybe from the government, will try to do it for us and they will get it wrong! They will try to tell us how to live in our own territory.”
Washington Criollo, Bavoroe Community, Cofán Nationality
“My hope is that with the knowledge from this course and with this technology I can help my people record and preserve our ancestral knowledge.”
Jorge Nonge Ahua, Guiyero Community, Waorani Nationality
“My community is located in Yasuní National Park. Yasuní is huge. The forest is still virgin, pure, but the problems there are also very big. The oil companies are drilling nearby and are building more roads. Deforestation is increasing every day. I worry that more settlers will be coming in to our territory. I want to help protect our land and to do so I realize I am going to need many different skills such as GPS, photography, video, and computer skills. With this course I am building up the technological knowledge to protect our land. In my community you wake up in the morning to the sounds of paujil, howler monkey, and parrots. It’s incredible how many animals there are! We will need to work so that is stays this way.” Note: Jorge asked to have his photo taken while he looked off into the distance— "Make it look like I'm envisioning protecting the forest and the animals!"
Fausto Machoa, Cofán Dureno, Cofán Nationality
“I want to help my people create a solid life plan with adequate protection of primary forest and spaces reserved for forest regeneration.” When asked why, he said, “The Cofán no longer have as much forest as we used to. What we have must be protected and allowed to regenerate. If we continue on the same course there will be no more animals left. Our children won’t get to know the tapir, boar, the wooly monkey, or the river dolphin. Cofán territory will be just like the city. If the forest and the animals disappear our culture will vanish. We will cease to be Cofán.
If the forest and the animals disappear our culture will vanish. We will cease to be Cofán.
Nemonte (Ines) Nenquimo, Nemopare Community, Waorani Nationality
“Mapping the Waorani’s territory is an urgent priority for me. There are large areas of our territory that are not mapped or even legally recognized. These areas are the most threatened by settlers, logging, and oil extraction. The Waorani also need a land use plan that sets aside forest for protection and regeneration within our territories. Learning GIS mapping is so important to me so that I can help my people protect our land and our culture.”
There are large areas of our territory that are not mapped or even legally recognized. These areas are the most threatened by settlers, logging, and oil extraction.
Note: Only a selection of mapping students were interviewed. Not all students participating in the mapping course appear in this blog.