The coronavirus reached our ancestral territories, and we spent several months in isolation in our communities. Our families were infected, many became sick and we even lost some of our elders to this virus. We know that this pandemic is devastating many countries and that the world is facing an emergency. Many people have died from the virus, hospitals in cities have collapsed, and no cure has been found for the disease.

For us as Amazonian peoples, it is not the first time that we have faced foreign infectious diseases. We have overcome many struggles in our history. That is why we are still here. But the pandemic has not only brought disease to our peoples, it has also caused more destruction to our territories. Mining and the logging of balsa wood increased during the pandemic. In some cases, armed conflict has also increased in our territories. All of this has deeply impacted our lives.


The media and television tell us that the virus came from China where wild animals transmitted this virus to humans. We know that they are also destroying the forest, and we are seeing the consequences. We hear many theories from scientists and world organizations about the virus. But we know that there is still a lot to understand. And there is a lot of disinformation on social media, which causes confusion for our communities.

But what we Indigenous peoples are clear about is that this virus, which has already caused so much chaos in the world, is the result of our behavior as humans. Among our Siekopai (Secoya) elders, it is said that the spirits in the upper world are angered by the atrocities that people are doing on Earth. That is why they emit rays causing climate change and pandemics. We see and feel how humanity has been acting violently for a long time, destroying nature and acting without respect for Mother Earth and the spirits living within her. All of this has led to the consequences we’re living through now.

But the coronavirus has also been a great teacher. The pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the system and cities. Once again, we are reminded that Indigenous peoples cannot depend on a system or a State; we must strengthen ourselves as communities. During the pandemic, we saw how the State abandoned us, and we saw how the health system collapsed, some of our elders even died in the hospitals. And so as we prepared our traditional medicines with plants from our territories, as we healed our elders and worked with our youth, we were reminded of how valuable our ancestral wisdom is.

We know that this coronavirus has been difficult. But we cannot stand idle. We must strengthen and unite in this struggle to protect our health, our cultures, and our territories.


COVID-19 is a virus that attacks the lungs and primarily affects the elderly and people with weak immune systems. It can lead to lung failure and even death, as it has already killed millions of people worldwide.


Most communities have been infected by the virus and overcome it, although some elders have been weakened from the disease. When one defeats the disease, the body generates antibodies that can last up to six months. After that, it is possible that these antibodies disappear, and we can become infected again. There is also talk of a second wave of infections because the virus has changed and has formed new “types” or “strains” that are unknown to the body, making anyone vulnerable to contagion.


One of the most immediate ways to know if one has the virus is to look for symptoms such as fever, cough, headache, and body pain. However, some people do not have any symptoms and can still infect others. Either way, the best way to know if you have the virus is by taking a PCR (nose swab) test.


Different COVID vaccines are being manufactured in parts of the world, some more effective than others. With most vaccines, you have to get double doses. Although they offer good protection, it is not guaranteed that they protect against all “strains.” Billions of dollars have been invested in the research and production of thousands of vaccines from various laboratories. However, in Ecuador, barely 20 thousand doses have arrived. We see that the vaccines go to rich countries first and that a large part of their population is already being vaccinated. In contrast, it is unknown when the vaccines will arrive in countries in the so-called “third world.” We also don’t know the quality of vaccines that will come. Indigenous peoples have been waiting a long time for the white man’s “solution,” which is why we cannot remain hopeful and stand idle. We must learn from our experiences. It’s crucial to strengthen our immune systems using our ancestral knowledge and the medicines of our ancestral territories. In addition, to avoid getting infected, it is important to continue implementing the appropriate security measures.


These measures can truly prevent the spread of the virus. Physical distancing, outdoor activities, constant hand washing, and the use of a mask are the most important measures to keep the virus away from us. We know that many times these biosecurity measures cannot always be complied with within our communities. Still, we must do everything in our power to adapt these measures to our reality because “we must not be afraid of the virus, but we cannot lose our respect for it.” It is each person’s responsibility to be attentive and take care of oneself. At the same time, we must take care of each other, we must continue learning and educating ourselves about this new reality, and we must continue adapting ourselves to take care of our health.


The protocols will be updated according to the reality of the COVID pandemic and according to the measures and restrictions that the government may or may not impose. The protocols work only if we have collective agreements and are serious and responsible in complying with them. Only in this way can we ensure a healthy and trustworthy work environment for all.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw how the world came to a halt –  tourism, schools, and businesses, everything stopped. The only thing that did not stop was the exploitation of the forest’s resources, the armed conflict, and the threats to our territories. On the contrary, these threats increased. In these times of pandemic, we must be more attentive and fight harder for our autonomy, we must trust in our community guards, we must build our own education, and we must strengthen our health. This new reality presents so many challenges to the Indigenous world, and we have always been the system’s last priority and the extractive industries’ first target.

Protecting our health and that of others is of the utmost importance. That is why we must agree on measures and protocols, so that we can continue to take care of ourselves while also continuing to fight for our cultures and territories. The protocols will be appropriate for our reality and the different realities of the people we work with. They must be followed with discipline to carry out the work in the best way so that we maintain trust among all and stay healthy.

IN COMMUNITIES (Working in the field)

  • The health protocols of the community and/or nationality where the work will be carried out will be respected at all times.
  • When planning work in communities, it is crucial to take into account potential COVID situations.
  • Each team should take biosecurity into account for work in the community and prepare biosecurity “kits” if necessary.
  • Wearing a mask is encouraged at community meetings.
  • Efforts will be made to hold meetings in open spaces and with physical distance.
  • If chicha is provided in the community, each one is responsible for deciding whether they will drink. It is forbidden to receive the glass of chicha and throw it away secretly. If the person wants to drink, they should be allowed.
  • Do not share glasses or cutlery.
  • People outside the community who have symptoms within 14 days should not travel to communities without taking a PCR test. They must wait for negative results BEFORE traveling.
  • Anyone external to our organizations (consultants and professionals) who have to carry out work must take PCR tests and wait for negative results BEFORE traveling.


We are aware that COVID will be present for at least another year. We also know that we should not be afraid of COVID, but we should respect it. So, we must be prepared to respond to situations in communities, protect our families and our elders. We learned many lessons from the first wave to help us make better decisions when responding to COVID in communities.

Our response to COVID involves:


  • Our plant medicine
  • Western drugs
  • Medical equipment (oximeters, oxygen tanks, etc.) for nearby health centers
  • Emergency evacuations
  • Support in feeding the sick
  • Professional medical and hospital assistance
  • COVID tests


  • Distribution and external communication on protocols and community situation
  • Support for food sovereignty initiatives
  • Communication infrastructure
  • Support for autonomous health initiatives


  • Preventive communication on a second wave (printed material with COVID information)
  • Compilation of ancestral knowledge to combat COVID and strengthen the immune system (printed and audiovisual material)
  • Monitoring and documentation of stories and experiences with COVID and community solutions
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