Indigenous Resistance to Oil Extraction in Southern Ecuador: The Need for State Recognition of Autonomy Demands for Cultural Sustainability

By Isabelle Anguelovski.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With 5.1 billion barrels of oil reserves, Ecuador has among the largest reserves in Latin America and is highly dependent on oil. However, most of the reserves are located on indigenous land and fragile ecosystems, leading to conflicts between communities, companies, and the State. In 1996, despite the opposition of the local communities of Sarayaku to oil exploration and extraction, Ecuador granted to the Argentinean company CGC the Block 23 to carry out seismic exploration. This paper studies, through the case of the Sarayaku communities, how indigenous peoples have organized their resistance to oil extraction in the Southern area of Ecuador to prevent the extension of the oil frontier, succeeded in keeping oil companies out of their traditional land, and constructed a model of autonomy for indigenous peoples in Ecuador. It shows that control over indigenous traditional territory and natural resources (rivers, forests, and oil) are the the sine qua non conditions to maintain indigenous way of life, inter-community relations, cosmology, and most important the cultural, ethnic and, social sustainability and integrity of native communities.

Keywords: Autonomy, Self Government, Pluri-Nationality, Multiculturalism, Indigeneity, Cultural Identity, Cosmology, Sovereignty, Natural Resources, Oil, Mobilization, Land Claims

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.95-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 561.829KB).

Isabelle Anguelovski

PhD candidate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

Isabelle Anguelovski completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at Science Po in Lille, France and her Master’s Degree in International Development/Latin American studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 2001-2002, she worked for Oxfam America in Peru and Bolivia, designing a gender policy for the South America programs of Oxfam, which focus on supporting indigenous groups improve their organizations, manage their natural resources, preserve their culture, and defend their rights. In 2003, she funded Chacha Warmi in Cambridge, MA, a NGO working to help indigenous people defend their rights in South America, with a focus on natural resources management and extractive industries. She also worked for two years at the Harvard School of Public Health on health disparities issues, with a focus on environmental injustices and inequalities in the United States. For her PhD, Isabelle Anguelovski is researching innovative mechanisms of civic engagement in natural resources extraction and management.

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