SURVIVAL OF UNCONTACTED TAGAERI AND TAROMENANE PEOPLES UNDER THREAT FROM THE CONCESSION OF THE ARMADILLO OIL BLOCK

Roberto Narváez, Fundación Pachamama On June 16 of 2011, the Oil Concession Committee (Comité de Licitación Hidrocarburífera) of the Ministry of Non-Renewable Natural Resources (MRNNR acronym in Spanish) opened the call to bid on various oil blocks in the Ecuadorian Amazon within under the modality of work for hire. One of these is the so called “Armadillo Block”. Map 1: Location of the Armadillo Block in relation to the Yasuní National Park

Source: MRNNR Web page, 2011.

The companies interested in the bidding of these blocks had until August 26, 2011 to provide their technical and economical offers, prior to canceling the right to participate fee of US$ 10,000. The call for bids closed after three consortiums interested in the Armadillo Block presented their offers: (1) Petrobell Ing. Grantmining S.A., Petróleos del Pacífico S.A., Pacifpetrol, Petróleos Andinos S.A., and Andi Petróleos, (2) Consorcio Gozhanty-Montecz, and (3) Consorcio Okeme. On February 7, 2012, Wilson Pastor, the Minister of Non-Renewable Natural Resources, asserted in an interview that the Gozhanty-Montecz Consortium would receive the right to develop the Armadillo Block.

The Armadillo block’s process for a call for bids has been promoted, even though there is evidence provided by government studies since 2009 that uncontacted indigenous peoples, the Tagaeri and Taromenane, inhabit this area. This is demonstrated by the Precautionary Measures Plan (Plan de Medidas Cautelares para la Protección de los Pueblos Tagaeri Taromenane PMC), under the authority of the Environmental Ministry, and that since 2011 has been monitored by the Justice, Human Rights, and Cult Ministry.

These studies are based on indirect registries and signs that prove the presence of an isolated people’s family group which has been called the Armadillo Group or Clan, related to the Tagaeri and Taromenane. This family group practices seasonal and cultural nomadic movements in the Tiputini and Cuchiyacu rivers.

Map 2: Location of the Uncontacted People family groups in the Yasuní area, according to the Precautionary Measures Plan [1]

Río Tiputini

Río Shiripuno

Río Cunchiyacu

Source: Informe Ejecutivo sobre la situación de Pueblos Indígenas Aislados en el sector Armadillo – Los Reyes (Alcance). PMC. 28 de diciembre de 2009.

[1]

The red points show places that uncontacted peoples have attacked and killed outsiders. The Armadillo block is found in the lower left hand side of the oval that highlights the approximate area of traditional use and movement of the Armadillo Tribe.

In the last few years between the Tiputini and Shiripuno rivers, several deaths related to the uncontacted peoples, specifically the Armadillo group, have been reported by colonists and loggers: •

On March 2, 2008, logger Mariano Castellanos was killed by spear wounds caused by uncontacted peoples in the Armadillo area, 2.5 kilometers from the Armadillo well head

On August 10, 2009, one woman and her two children were killed in the area of the “Kings” (Los Reyes) Cooperative, a colonist settlement. These deaths were attributed to the uncontacted indigenous of the Armadillo Clan, as noted in the Injunctions Plan. It is thought that their deaths were a result of the annoyance caused by the electrical plant’s noise at the South Anthill Platform, part of PetroOriental company’s operation in Block 14.

On November 24, 2009, the commission of the Precautionary Measures Plan conducted a fly over of the Armadillo sector and a Taromenane house was identified, proving that this area is inhabited by uncontacted peoples.

Image 1: Tagaeri Taromenane house identified by the Precautionary Measures Plan

Source: Informe Ejecutivo sobre la situación de Pueblos Indígenas Aislados en el sector Armadillo – Los Reyes (Alcance). PMC. 28 de diciembre de 2009.

Furthermore, the Injunctions Plan mentions information from 2009 when a fly over the Armadillo sector was performed and a Taromenane house was identified, proving that this area is inhabited by uncontacted peoples. The Waorani of the Yawepade, Dikapade (Armadillo) and Ñoneno communities located between the Tiputini and Shiripuno rivers have also reported signs of the presence and movement of uncontacted peoples in various occasions. Map 3: Location of the Waorani communities where evidence of uncontacted peoples has been found[2]
Río Tiputini

Río Shiripuno

Source: Maps of the Organización de la Nacionalidad Waorani de Orellana.

The development of the Armadillo Oil Block has become a threat to the Tagaeri and Taromenane people. The beginning of exploration and oil surveying activities will affect their movement dynamics, the traditional use of their territory, and their access to basic natural resources that they need to survive, especially that of the Armadillo Clan.

Furthermore, the Tagaeri and Taromenane will be exposed to potential situations of direct violence and disease transmission, which could generate epidemics and cause the death of these uncontacted

[2]

The red boxes represent the Waorani communities located outside of the Tagaeri and Taromenane Untouchable Zone (Zona Intangible Tagaeri Taromenane ZITT), found in the lower right side of the map and shown with diagonal lines.

people, just as it has happened in similar situations throughout the continent (the Panará people of Brazil, the Nukak people of Colombia, the Murunahua of Peru, among others).

The well being of the oil companies’ workers, contractors, and subcontractors will also be put in risk, as well as that of the colonist population and the Waorani that live in the area surrounding the traditional territory of these people, who if they feel under pressure or threat react in defense with violence.

The vulnerable situation that the Tagaeri and Taromenane are facing could lead to their cultural and biological death as an ethnic group. If exposed to the oil activities in the Armadillo Block, their situation could even amount to genocide and ethnocide. Then the Ecuadorian government would have to explain their actions to national and international judicial bodies.

The extractive policy of the current government, underpinned by a constant violation of rights in general, in all instances from high level authorities to public functionaries, requires prompt national and international response from civil society and organizations interested in the defense of human and indigenous peoples’ rights. Action must be taken to curb exploitation in the Armadillo Oil Block that would affect, as shown above, the survival of the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples.

For this reason, it is indispensable to demand that the Ecuadorian government safeguard the lives of the Uncontacted Tagaeri and Taromenane People and their right to autonomous determination and use and mobility in their traditional territory, fulfilling the Injunctions set forth by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights in 2006. Additionally, it is necessary that this institution be asked to provide greater provisional protection for the Tagaeri and Taromenane facing the state’s policies. Spaces where the rights of Uncontacted Peoples can be demanded must be created and an emergency plan should be produced on a national and international level.

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