If you believe the Indigenous people(s) have the right to have the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations, appropriately reflected in all forms, and if you foster the appreciation for, and an understanding of, the value of indigenous traditions, cultures, and institutions and their right to preserve and develop their identity and culture, please read on.
The following is an update on the latest situation occurring with Occidental (Oxy) Oil Company, based in Los Angeles, California, and the Secoya People of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Occidental has effectively managed to divide the Secoya community. The Secoya People urgently need support from the international community. Please sign the letter at the end of this message and send it to the addresses provided.
Your letters will be most effective if sent as soon as possible because reports say that Oxy is anxious to start drilling on Secoya lands because its contract with Petroecuador says it must drill three new test wells in Block 15 by December 31, 2000. A decision might take place any day now.
The Secoyas and Oxy are negotiating a Code of Conduct. Oxy resisted this at first, but is now willing to compromise on the issue although basically the Secoya delegation achieved many of its points concerning the code of conduct. Negotiations concerning the three test wells will probably commence after October 31 after a written agreement on the Code of Conduct is supposed to go into effect. If it is ratified by the various Secoya villages - the voting will be- maybe - in October. Therefore, will you please write your letters and send them as soon as you can?
The Secoyas in Ecuador are an ethnic minority living in 100,000 acres of the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, in the province of Sucumbios, along the Aguarico River. They live in two communities, San Pablo and Sehuaya. They are represented by OISE, the Secoya Indigenous Peoples' Organization of Ecuador. The leaders of OISE are democratically elected by the entire tribe.
However, the community is divided over Occidental's presence. The elders and women are totally opposed to any and all petrol activities. Even with these Secoya voices expressed, Occidental has completed its seismic operations. Whether oil is really there can only be determined by drilling, which hasn't occurred yet. If oil is found in Secoya land, it will, without a doubt, leave the Aguarico River - a tributary of the Amazon River - polluted, affect the uniqueness of the forest and leave the Secoya spirit troubled. Your letters of concern are important before irreversible consequences occur, locally and globally.
OISE has stood strong against Occidental to insure proper compensation to the Secoya People. In September 1998, Oxy negotiated a contract with the Sehuaya community for one test well. The contract with Sehuaya divided the two communities, San Pablo and Sehuaya, mainly between September-December 1998, undermining the democratically elected OISE Secoya Peoples' representatives. The contract Occidental signed with the Sehuaya community was for USD 85,000. OISE protested and sought to annul the contract, saying the company had to negotiate with OISE, and not a single "centro". In December 1998 Oxy issued a letter acknowledging that the contract with Sehuaya was annulled. More recently, Oxy has accepted the OISE argument that it must negotiate with OISE.
Currently the Secoya negotiating commission includes representatives of all of the Secoya "centros", including Sehuaya, and they are acting in a 'unified' manner as they dialogue with Oxy. Negotiations on the three test wells probably won't occur until after the Code of Conduct takes effect - if it is ratified by the Secoya "centros" [villages]).
These negotiations could start in November. If an agreement on the three test wells is reached, Oxy says it would use helicopters to the three proposed well-sites and extract the oil over a 20 year period all for a mere 14 days supply of oil. Yet without a doubt, serious damage, spiritually, culturally and environmentally, will occur. Just fifteen days after Occidental constructed its first base camp in the Secoya communal center of Sehuaya in 1977, a Secoya woman was raped by an Occidental employee. There was no criminal investigation. Occidental simply dismissed the man. In 1997, in exchange for petroleum-related activities on the last 45,000 acres of pristine Rainforest on Secoya land, the president of OISE was promised: 1 outboard motor, 1300 sheets of tin roofing, 44 sets of aluminum pots, 5 rolls of plastic, 50 rolls of chicken wire, 200 pounds of nails, and 200 plastic tubes, to be distributed evenly among all his people. The agreement also stated that the Secoyas would receive 1,000 Ecuadorian sucres - about US 30 cents per meter of seismic test tracks cut - or about USD 36,000. Despite tremendous pressure from Occidental - including bribes, trickery and lies - the President of the Sehuaya community realized his error in signing the contract with Occidental. At the end of 1998, at a community council, it was agreed that the Secoyas would stand strong against Occidental to protect and respect their culture, human rights and communal lands.
OISE, the Secoya People's Organization, rejected a contract allowing Occidental to drill on Secoya land, but Occidental has refused to honor this decision. However, if signing equal rights of access is agreed between OISE and Oxy, and if a future agreement is reached between the two, Oxy would have limited rights of access for certain petroleum-related activities on Secoya lands.
But still Occidental isn't listening.
Occidental is one of the world's largest oil companies, with corporate assets totalling nearly $18 billion and annual revenues of over $9 billion. It produces oil and gas in twelve countries, and it is exploring for oil in twenty-three others. It is Occidental Petroleum's plan to drill for oil on the traditional land of the U'wa People(s) in Columbia whose opposition to oil exploration is so strong that they have vowed to commit collective suicide if Occidental and the Columbian government proceed to drill on their land. They prefer death by their own hand than the slow death to their environment and culture that oil will bring.
Oxy has racked up a notoriously poor record on environmental and indigenous rights issues, particularly in the Upper Amazon River Basin. Their incursions into Block 15 have begun to impact Ecuador's Secoya and Siona peoples, who live on the banks of the Aguarico River in the northeastern province of Sucumbios. There are only about 350 Secoyas and 250 Sionas remaining in Ecuador.
The Secoyas ask the global community to please support them against Occidental Oil Company because they cannot do this alone as they interface with the pressure from the cash economy, and encroaching, powerful modern technologies. This is a very confusing time for the Secoyas. They need and want international support as oil exploration on Indian Lands in the Amazon has proven to be a disaster.
Sustainable use of local resources is simple self-preservation for people whose way of life is tied to the fertility and natural abundance of the land. Indigenous peoples frequently aim to preserve not just a standard of living but a way of life rooted in the uniqueness of a local place. Indians often say that the difference between a colonist (a non-Indian settler) and an Indian is that the colonist wants to leave money for his children and that the Indians want to leave forests for their children.
Since World War 2, the culture of petroleum and its petro-dollars have devastated the Amazon Rainforest. The world's Indigenous people(s) expend much of their energy simply trying to secure their resource rights. At the end of the 20th century, the Secoya people are resisting the pressure from the cash economy and the encroaching powerful modern technologies as they struggle to preserve a precious global resource. They have the fundamental rights of indigenous people(s) to be acknowledged and respected, the right to preserve and develop their identity and culture, and to stress the importance of the right to self-determination. We all do.
We, the people of the world want to act upon our social and moral obligations towards all of life. Without a doubt, the travesty resulting with Occidental's activities affects all of us. Without our support, Occidental oil company will devastate the spirit of an ethnic minority of at least 350 people and yet another rainforest. The Secoyas are an authentic Amazon nation with a precious cultural heritage and invaluable wisdom and guidance for the world.
Please note: Occidental's plan will ravage the Rainforest over 20 years all for a mere 14 days supply of USA oil.
For half a century of criminal violations against Humanity rather than in relief of it, can we really settle for petrol companies to continue to act as lords of our earth and people(s)?
We trust this report will ignite your passion to write a letter or send the sample letter below so that the Secoya People, represented by OISE, will receive a strong response of solidarity from the international community.
The power of your pen is essential in this struggle. The Secoya People must not be pressured. Please sign and send a copy of the following letter.
Thank you very much,
From a concerned global citizen.
Enclosed is a sample letter in English and Spanish. Please send a Spanish letter to Ecuador.[ Contents ]
Every day unconscionable destruction of the Amazon Rainforest moves forward. If we understand ourselves as human species, stewards of the Earth, we must do whatever we can to protect the life of our planet and all its peoples.
I am writing to demand a nondisputed moratorium for 5 years on all Occidental Petroleum Corporation's activities in Block 15 in the Ecuadorian Rainforest, imposed on the Secoya homelands. The Secoyas cannot be pressured. It is not the Indigenous way. In most native cosmologies, nature is more than a store-house of resources. Amid the endless variety of Indigenous belief, there is striking unity on the sacredness of ecological systems.
What is happening to the Secoya People in Block 15 of the Ecuadorian Amazon profoundly affects the Indigenous people living there and ultimately all people everywhere. We must safeguard the cultural heritage of the Amazon to keep our world diverse. To lose the Indigenous knowledge is to have lost forever something precious and irreplaceable in our human family. To harm the Rainforest itself, we endanger all life on our planet. Petrol activities in the Amazon Rainforest, undoubtedly, continue to destroy a priceless human resource.
I stand next to the Secoya voices, especially those of the elders and women, to support the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of the Secoya people. I want to insure the survival of this unique and fragile tropical ecosystem to keep our world diverse because I respect the wisdom of our ancestors 7 generations past and I respect our children and grandchildren.
I want our children to know, 7 generations into the future, that my signature in this letter stands for a command to halt activities that will endanger life on our planet - in this case - the social, cultural and environmental tragedy, revering petrol above human spirit, caused by Occidental's refusal to listen and obey the wishes of the Secoya People, especially those of the elders and women. It is they who know that petro-dollars can never supersede nor replace the sacred Amazon forest or their culture or their ancestral inheritance.
Please join me in this commitment to safeguard the Secoya Amazon forest and culture. I urge you to do everything possible to stop Occidental's activities in Block 15 for 5 years. Thank you very much. Muchas gracias.
(Date signed)[ Contents ]
Cada dia la destruccion desmesurada de la selva amazonica avanza mas. Si nos entendemos como seres humanos cuidadores - administradores de la Tierra debemos hacer todo lo posible para protejer la vida de nuestro planeta y su gente.
Escribo para exijir una moratoria sin disputa de 5 anos de todas las actividades de la compania Occidental de Petroleos (Occidental Petroleum Corporation) en el Bloque 15 en la selva Ecuatoriana impuesta en las tierras de los Secoyas. Los Secoyas no pueden ser presionados, esa no es la costumbre Indigena. En la mayoria de las cosmologias nativas, la naturaleza es mas que una casa-almacen de recursos. Entre la infinita variedad de creencias indigenas hay una gran unidad en lo sagrado de los sistemas ecologicos.
Lo que esta ocurriendo a la gente Secoya en el Boque 15 de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana afecta profundamente a la gente indigena que vive alli y fundamentalmente a toda la gente en todas partes. Debemos resguardar la herencia cultural del Amazonas para conservar nuestra diversidad del mundo. Perder la sabiduria indigena es perder para siempre algo precioso e irreparable de nuestra familia humana. Al danar la selva estamos poniendo en peligro toda la vida en nuestro planeta. Las actividades petroleras en la selva Amazonica indudablemente continuan destruyendo los invalorables recursos humanos.
Yo paro alado las voces de los Secoyas, especialmente lo de los mayores y de las mujeres, para apoyar la resguardar de la herencia cultural y el bosque tropical de la gente Secoya. Yo quiero asegurar la subsistencia de este fragil y unico ecosistema tropical para mantener nuestro diverso mundo porque yo respeto la sabiduria de las siete generaciones pasadas de nuestro ancestros y respeto nuestros hijos y nietos.
Yo quiero que nuestros hijos conozcan siete generaciones futuras, que mi firma en esta carta apoya un comando de parar a los actividades que causaran peligro a la vida de nuestro planeta - en este caso - la tragedia social, cultural y ambiental, reverando petrol sobre el espiritu humano, causada por el rechazamiento de la Compania Occidental de Petroleos de escuchar y obedecer los deseos de la gente Secoya, especialmente los de las mujeres y ancianos. Ellos son que saben que el dinero petroleo nunca jamas pueda reponer o devolver o reemplazar el sagrado bosque Amazonico o su cultura o su herencia ancestral.
Por favor, unase a mi compromiso de resguardar la cultura y la selva amazonica de los Secoyas. Les insito a hacer todo lo posible para detener las actividades de la Compania Occidental de Petroleos por 5 anos en el bloque 15.
(firma y fecha)[ Contents ]
Letters of concern may be sent to:
Personas interesadas pueden enviar su carta a:
PRESIDENTE JAMIL MAHUAD de la REPUBLICA DEL ECUADOR
Garcia Moreno 1043 y Chile
Fax: (011-593-2) 580-736
Lerida 407 y Ponteverdra
PERIODICO "EL COMERCIO"
Fax: (011-593-2) 670-866
Tel: (011-593-2) 670-999
Fax: (011-593-2) 491-410
Tel: (011-593-2) 490-888
MINISTERIO DE ENERGIA Y MINAS
René Ortiz, Director
Santa Prisca 223 y Manuel Larrea
Tel: (011-593-2) 572-011
Fax: (011-593-2) 570-359
MINISTRA DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE
Yolanda Kakabadse, Director
Eloy Alfaro y Amazonas, Edif. Mag, Piso 7
Tel: (011-593-2) 563 - 430 or 563-423 or 563 - 429
Fax: (011-593-2) 500-041
Luis Ortiz, Director
Ave. Eloy Alfaro No. 4070 y Gaspar de Villaroel
Tel: (593 - 2) 445 535 or 461457
Fax: (593 - 2) 443-062
1916 A Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94703
Fax: (510) 705-8983
Tel: (510) 705-8981
RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK
Shannon Wright, Director, Beyond Oil Campaign
221 Pine Street, 5th. floor
San Francisco, California, 94104
Tel: (415) 398-4404 - Fax: (415) 398-2732
OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION
Attention: Dr. Ray I. Irani, President
10889 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, California, 90024 - 4201
Tel: (212) 603-8111
Dr. Irani's home address: 388 St. Pierre Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90077