Human rights impacts of oil pollution: Ecuador

Alleged impacts on cultural way of life for indigenous communities

Italicised quotations below are selected abstracts; for full text, click hyperlinked titles.

There are five main indigenous groups who have been affected by the oil pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon: the Secoya, Cofan, Siona, Huarani, and Kichwa (Quichua).

Internationally recognised human rights standards related to culture.

Affected Communities”, ChevronToxico website, The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador (Amazon Watch & Frente de defensa de la amazonia)
“Oil exploitation in the Ecuadorian Amazon has done more than pollute the water and soil of one of the world's most unique and irreplacable ecosystems. It has irreversibly altered and degraded an environment that people have called home for millennia. Indigenous people who knew the forest intimately and lived sustainably off its resources for countless generations have found themselves forced into dire poverty, unable to make a living in their traditional ways when the rivers and forests are empty of fish and game. Native Amazonians and recent migrants to the area alike suffer from a health crisis that includes cancer and birth defects. For the indigenous, the physical ailments they suffer from are only accentuated by the cultural impoverishment that the oil industry has brought to the region, in many cases amounting to the almost total loss of ancient traditions and wisdom. Neither Texaco nor the government of Ecuador consulted local people before commencing with oil activity in the Oriente.”

Lou DematteisThe Case Against Texaco: Interview with Emergildo Criollo, Cofan Representative”, Hanna Dahlstrom, Upside Down World, 5 Dec 2006
“Still to this day we have our culture but with Texaco's arrival it changed completely. We always used to drink chicha, made of yuca, but with Texaco's arrival, the people began to drink alcohol and with that everything changed…Afterwards, the people, little by little, everyone buys alcohol easily. And instead of preparing yucca for three days, they buy directly and drink. [The culture] has changed completely. The language too, sometimes people are ashamed to speak, they don't want to speak [their] own language because the Spanish speakers call them Indians. They want to speak Spanish. In regard to the food, before the children grew quickly, we ate animals from the rainforest without contamination. Today there are no more animals in the rainforest; there is only food from town…”

Statement by Humberto Piaguaje, Secoya Leader, in “The Lasting Stain of Oil - Cautionary Tales and Lessons from the Amazon”, The Assembly of Communities Affected by Chevron/Texaco in conjunction with Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network, June 2010
"The jungle is our university, our hospital, our market . Now none of this exists. Now we have contamination instead of security for human life."

Environmental Justice Case Study: Texaco’s Oil Production in the Ecuadorian Rainforest”, Kristi Jacques, University of Michigan, 2000
“The cultures and traditions developed by these tribes [the Cofan, who inhabit the first place Texaco drilled; the Secoya; and the Siona] are linked to the rainforest and its abundance of resources.  The toxic waste dumped by Texaco has endangered their lives so seriously that extinction has become a real threat.”

Indigenous Kichwa Leader Guillermo Grefa in Houston to Confront Chevron at Shareholders Meeting”, The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador, 24 May 2010
“Two nomadic groups living in voluntary isolation –the Tetetes and the Sansawari – disappeared completely after Texaco began what it dubbed ‘the largest civilian airlift in history’ in search of the crude lying beneath Ecuador’s rainforests.”

  • Oil Development, Deforestation, and Indigenous Populations in the Ecuadorian Amazon”, Professor Douglas Southgate (Ohio State University), Robert Wasserstrom, Ph.D. (Terra Group) and Susan Reider (Terra Group), 2009
    This paper states: “A genocide that wasn’t: the Teteté…In any case, by 1973, only three elderly Teteté had been encountered for several years. Their kinsmen had apparently moved elsewhere or joined the Quichua majority before oil development began…Historical evidence and rising population figures contradict the claim that genocide, or anything like it, has occurred among native groups in the Oriente since oil production began.”