Historic ruling in Ecuador returns ownership of ancestral land to the Siekopai people - Amazon Frontlines

by

February 2024 /

News / Media Coverage /

This story was originally published in El Pais.

___

The Siekopai people will finally be able to return to their ancestral home, to Pë’këya, a territory within Ecuador, along the border with Peru. The area is where this Amazonian tribe lived for centuries, until they were expelled in 1941, due to the war between the two countries. According to a ruling issued on Friday, November 24, the Ecuadorian government has guaranteed them ownership of a piece of the jungle: a total of 42,360 hectares, also known as Lagartococha. The judicial decision (the second one related to this case) is “historic,” explains Justino Pianguaje, the head of the Siekopai Nation, who spoke with EL PAÍS by phone. For the first time, Ecuador has recognized an Indigenous population’s right to “possess a territory that has been declared a protected area.” Pianguaje points out that this ruling can serve as a precedent for other Indigenous communities that are trying to regain control of their land.

The 2008 Constitution of Ecuador recognizes the right of “Indigenous communes, communities, peoples and nationalities to maintain possession of ancestral lands and territories and obtain their free allocation.” But there was an exception: the spaces included in the National System of Protected Areas, for which the regulations contemplated transfer (essentially, the ability to reside on the lands), but not full ownership. In 2017, the approval of the Organic Law of Rural Lands and Ancestral Territories opened the door for protected spaces to also return to the hands of their original owners — something that has just happened with the return of Pë’këya to the Siekopai. The community has about 720 people in Ecuador. There are more than 1,000 in total, with members of the tribe living in Peru.