The History

Since the massive displacement caused by the rubber boom and slave trade in the late 19th century, the Siona nationality in Ecuador has been split into three regions: Aguarico, Cuyabeno and Putumayo, with each facing a myriad of threats to the survival of their territories and cultures. Their population numbers approximately 400 people sparsely settled in several communities.

The Siona communities of the Putumayo region, Wisuya and Buenavista, are organized, resistant to extractive industries, and firm in their vision for conserving their territory and maintaining their ancestral culture. The last remaining Siona taitas, or shamans, live in these communities. Yet for years oil companies on both the Ecuadorian and Colombian sides of the border have utilized relentless pressure and deceitful tactics in an effort to gain access to the Siona’s oil rich territory.

Further south, the Siona along the Aguarico live in a 20,000-hectare plot surrounded by oil operations, African Palm plantations, colonist land invaders, and roads. And to the east, within one of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests, the Siona of Cuyabeno lost their ancestral territory to appropriation by the Ecuadorian government and now primarily work as guides, porters and cooks in a tourism industry owned by outsiders. This influx of tourism, while providing income to local Siona, has precipitated rapid cultural loss, including the loss of the Siona language amongst youth.

The Future

Ceibo’s Siona Team has installed rainwater harvesting systems for every Siona family in Ecuador, ensuring clean and safe drinking water for decades. To strengthen the autonomy of remote Siona communities off the grid, Ceibo will provide them with solar energy systems in the coming years.

Ceibo is also encouraging community members from the three disparate regions to participate and support territorial defense actions across the Siona ancestral lands, fueling a collective effort, contributing to a growing a sense of unity, and make important legal strides toward autonomy and territorial defense. In all three regions, Ceibo is engaging communities to revive and strengthen integral aspects of the Siona cultural identity.

The Siona Team is supporting the construction of ceremonial yagé houses, the facilitation of cultural exchange workshops led by elder Siona women, the cultivation and recovery of the sacred yoco and yagé vines that today are too sparse in the wild for frequent consumption, and the launching of women-led micro-enterprises that promote economic self-sufficiency and female leadership.

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