The Situation

The Conquistadors searched for gold. The loggers for hardwoods. The rubber barons for latex. The miners for precious metals. The oil companies for hydrocarbons. The ranchers for pastureland. The ag business for fertile soils. What unites their pursuits is the idea that the resources of the Amazon rainforest are up for grabs – a wild place of untapped riches.

Over the course of five centuries the Kofan, Siona, Secoya, and Waorani indigenous nations have lost millions of acres of ancestral territory to invasion and resource extraction, yet they still remain the legal and legitimate owners of millions of acres of primary rainforest across Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

“We saw with our own eyes what the oil companies did to our brother’s lands. The forest, the air, the water, it’s all contaminated. The children are sick. We can never let that happen here. We must defend our territory.”

- Tiri Nenquimo, elder of Nemonpare.

The Vision

We are working with youth, women and elders of each nation to map their territories, documenting historic and mythological battle sites, ancestral migration routes, old village grounds, gardens and orchards, creeks and hunting trails. For each nation their territory is what gives them life.

We are supporting them to produce territorial maps (both printed and online) that document the historic and actual uses of their territory, and that demonstrate that their rainforest homeland is not up for grabs.

Explore our work in the field

Secoya: Recovering Ancestral Territory

Since the 1941 war between Ecuador and Peru, the Secoya Nation has been separated by political borders and displaced from their ancestral homelands. Now they are working to reclaim their ancestral land and reunite with their families.

Here is an interactive georeferenced map of Lagarto Cocha which visually displays Secoya ancestral settlements, ceremonial centers, mythological sites, ancient travel routes, and traditional forest uses.

Waorani: Mapping Ancestral Lands

In the face of mounting threats to their lands and livelihoods, Waorani communities have begun creating territorial maps of their forests that document the historic and actual uses of their territory, and demonstrate that their homelands are not up for grabs.

Whereas the maps of oil companies show petrol deposits and major rivers, the maps that the Waorani peoples are creating identify historic battle sites, ancient cave-carvings, jaguar trails, medicinal plants, animal reproductive zones, important fishing holes, creek-crossings, sacred waterfalls.

The Technology

Mapping Technology, developed by Digital Democracy

Mapeo is an open source, offline map editor. It makes it easy for individuals or teams to create maps and organize stories and knowledge. Mapeo leverages the same easy-to-use editor and flexible data structure as OpenStreetMap. It is powered by a peer-to-peer database that enables offline collaboration and control over data sharing. Digital Democracy is building Mapeo in collaboration with Alianza Ceibo, Amazon Frontlines and other indigenous partners in the Amazon, based on our requests for an easier way to create and edit our own maps so as to defend our lands and cultures.

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