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News > Ecuador

Ecuadorian Court Recognizes Siekopai Indigenous Territory

  • Members of the the Siekopai Nation in Ecuador, 2023.

    Members of the the Siekopai Nation in Ecuador, 2023. | Photo: X/ @AFrontlines

Published 29 November 2023

“The land of Pë’këya has always been and will always be ours. For over 80 years, we have been fighting to get our land back," the Siekopai president said.

On Nov. 24, the Provincial Court of Sucumbios' Appeals Court ruled in favor of the recourse filed by the Siekopai people against the Ecuadorian Environment Ministry, which has been overseeing the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve since 1979.


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The Siekopai nation successfully secured recognition from the Ecuadorian State of their ownership of Pë"këya, a 42,360-hectare area that was incorporated into the Cuyabeno reserve without their prior consent.

Described as a "hypnotic labyrinth of blackwater lagoons and flooded forests," it is considered a spiritual epicenter for the Siekopai nation, the organization Amazon Frontlines said.

Pë"këya is home to some of the planet's most biodiverse ecosystems, hosting at least 200 species of reptiles and amphibians, around 600 bird species, and 167 mammal species.

"The Siekopai’s court victory recognizing Pë’këya marks a major stepping stone in this binational struggle for the reunification of their ancestral territory," Amazon Frontlines stressed. 

"After centuries of violence, racism, and conquest by colonizing missions, rubber corporations, and governments, the court’s recognition of the Siekopai as the owners of Pë’këya is an indispensable step towards restoring justice and guaranteeing their collective survival and the continuity of their culture," it added.

The Sucumbios ruling marks the first time that the Ecuadorian state will grant land title to an Indigenous people whose ancestral territory is within the national protected areas system. It establishes an invaluable precedent for all Indigenous peoples fighting to reclaim their lands.

The verdict mandates that the Environment Ministry issue the land title for 42,360 hectares of Amazonian territory within 45 days and publicly apologize to the Siekopai elders and youth for the violation of their collective territorial rights.

The Siekopai were displaced when their ancestral territory was divided by the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, which delineated the border between Ecuador and Peru following the 1941 war between the two countries. Subsequently, they were prevented from returning when the Ecuadorian government unilaterally declared Pë’këya as part of the Cuyabeno reserve.

With a population of only 800 inhabitants in Ecuador and 1,200 in Peru, the Siekopai or Secoya aim to reclaim over 200,000 hectares of what they consider their ancestral territory.

“This is a historic moment. The land of Pë’këya has always been and will always be ours. For over 80 years, we have been fighting to get our land back. Despite all the evidence regarding our land title claim – even historians testified that our ancestors dwelled in the area since the time of conquest – the Ecuadorian state failed to uphold our land rights time and time again," said Elias Piyahuaje, the president of the Siekopai Nation of Ecuador.

"We are fighting for the preservation of our culture on this planet. Without this territory, we cannot exist as Siekopai people. Today is a great day for our nation,” he added.

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