Our last trip to Peru was an amazing and yet startling eye opener of what is transpiring throughout the Amazon. In 2008 the Peruvian government passed unprecedented decrees opening up the Amazon to multinational extractive corporations. Despite protests from the indigenous people, most of the Peruvian Amazon has since been leased to oil and gas companies. On this trip I saw the daily helicopters leaving the Pucallpa airport as the companies proceed with exploration and the beginnings of massive oil drilling. This is in the midst of extensive deforestation from “legal” and illegal logging and mining for gold in the rivers. The already stressed rainforest environment and the Native peoples who have lived there for thousands of years are the latest victims of the world’s insatiable need for fossil fuels. With the degradation of the rainforest comes the slow death of the indigenous cultures and the slow death of their traditional knowledge of the rainforest plant medicines and the ecosystems that supported the life of the jungle animals and people. More and more I saw the natives peoples as environmental refugees, finding it increasingly difficult to live off the land in traditional ways and unable to participate in a market economy for which they have no skills, education, or comprehension of money. They only know that they need more money to meet basic needs, and no means to make money. To further complicate the picture, the IIRSA project (Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America) plans to cut highways, create dams, and airports through pristine forest that threatens to destroy more jungle and indigenous communities.
For the past two years I have served as the International Coordinator for the Shipibo tribal council named the Consejo Shipibo Konibo Xetebo (Coshikox). Together we wrote a grant funded by First Peoples Worldwide. We created a diagnostic assessment that, in our phase 1 of this project, collected important data from 57 communities in the central Shipibo territory. The assessment includes domains such as basic demographics of the community, land titles, health, education, culture, agriculture, natural resources, environmental issues, women and children, and what each community needs. This information is extremely important and provides data on the true conditions, for at least, the communities in the central region. Our phase 2 grant proposal will be for the diagnostic assessment to be executed in the upper Ucayali River region of the Shipibo territory where there are another 50 communities. Already, this data is being used to develop sustainable economic development projects that will benefit the communities and give them a means to value and sustainable use their natural resources.
I was extremely inspired by the work of the Coshikox who are creating alliances with other indigenous organizations to bring political action and voice to the human rights violations concerning the indigenous people of the Amazon. Shipibo Joi along with another NGO, the Alianza Arkana, supported three members of the Coshikox to travel to Lima on February 8, 2012 to participate in Peruvian government sponsored meetings concerning the recently passed Law of Prior Consultation. While this law requires consultation with tribes prior to allowing extractive activities in indigenous territories is does NOT allow for a veto so, in essence, this leaves the indigenous tribes powerless if they should reject extractive and development activities. Furthermore, there have already been oil spills by Maple Energy for years a number of Shipibo communities. This link is a video showing that the Shipibo are already living with the nightmare of death, illness and pollution from multinational oil and gas activities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJHedRcgI3E
To this end, the Coshikox is heading up a large emergency meeting in Yarinacocha to gather the leaders of the Shipibo communities as well as other indigenous groups such as the Ashininka who are being affected by the presence of multinational extractive corporations and Amazonian development plans. The target date for this emergency meeting is April 2012.
During my month in Peru we also worked on a number of other projects and I want to thank my dear friend, Cal Peacock for coming with me to learn, observe and inspire others to care about what is happening in the Amazon. Cal was a great companion on our travels to Shipibo communities, in my endless meetings, and handled the jungle environ like a pro. I also want to thank Sashwa Borrous and Nate Costa for taking pictures and video that we will use to educate people on the Shipibo culture and conditions. Sashwa and Nate also gave computer classes to the women of Maroti Shobo. They were wonderful to have on the trip. I want to thank Susannah Arnhart, who had been living with the Shipibo for the past year and one half. Thank you for your tireless giving and connecting and translating, you are an amazing young woman. Finally, I want to thank Luis Fernandez for joining us for a week and translating and being interested in what Shipibo Joi is doing.
The following is a report on our projects with the Shipibo.
1. We gave away about 50 pairs of reading glasses to the Shipibo. This has become a sort of tradition when traveling to Peru and now there are Shipibo who look forward to the glasses.
2. Shipibo Joi met with a number of midwives from different communities. We gave out midwifery supplies and had discussions on what they need. The most exciting development came from a meeting in the Shipibo community of San Francisc with a group of midwives and two Peruvian doctors working at the health clinic. Here a certification process for Shipibo midwives has been initiated and we discussed developing a model of Integrative Medicine where the traditional midwives and doctors can begin to work together to integrate the traditional midwifery knowledge of the Shipibo with (we hope the best of) western medicine. This is a first step in acknowledging (and preserving) the specialized and ancient knowledge passed down to midwives from generation to generation. Through a process of certification, the role of the Shipibo midwives can be recognized and ultimately provided with resources in the future. The regional Ministry of Health is in support of using San Francisco as an Integrative Medicine model. The traditional medicos of San Francisco are also interested in participating in this model.
3. We were able to set up a program for Shipibo teen girls called “Girls for the World.” This program curricula was created by Karen Hansen whose organization is Girls for the World, a 5 day retreat she has been conducting in India for teen girls. We will bring it to a group of Shipibo girls in January 2013. We will also collaborate with the Alianza Arkana NGO who has developed a scholarship program for Shipibo youth. We are very aware that the Shipibo youth need support in coping with their changing world and became aware that the suicide rate among indigenous Amazonian youth is extremely high. Many youth see that the traditional world is changing and they do not see much hope for their own future. Our hope is to bring resources and support to the youth, to support cultural pride and hope for their future. The Girls for the World program encourages self expression, self esteem, confidence, leadership skills, a vision for the future, among other themes. We are excited to pilot this program and plan to teach young Shipibo women how to lead this program to replicate in other Shipibo communities.
4. We continued our work with Maroti Shobo, a group of 24 women artesans who have a market building that faces the Yarinacocha plaza. We conducted a number of activities with the women. We provided computer skills workshops (thanks Sashwa and Nate) for the women to learn more about emailing and how to use google translate. We gave a marketing workshop with materials provided by the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, a market they participated in last year, and we practiced mailing textiles internationally. The goal of these activities is to develop the skills that they will need to conduct business internationally without a “middleman”. Eventually, they will be able to receive and fill orders for their artesania. Finally, the women requested assistance with their building. The tin roof is falling apart and when it rains, portions of the building leak and cause flooding. Shipibo Joi is going to assist in raising funds for building improvement. The Maroti Shobo building not only functions as a market for artesania, the back portion is used as a community room where Shipibo often hold meetings. There are additional rooms and a cooking area in the back that house Shipibo who come into the town of Yarina from the more remote communities and when there was extreme flooding in 2011, Maroti Shobo also housed many families who were forced out of their communities due to this disaster.
5. We had many meetings with the Consejo Shipibo Konibo Xetebo, the tribal council of the Shipibo Nation to discuss sustainable economic development projects for the Shipibo. Their ideas are fantastic from fish farms and permaculture to collaborating with Andean indigenous organizations to create an exchange of agricultural products between the Amazon and the Andean regions. I will be writing another grant for the phase 2 of our diagnostic assessment work for the upper Ucayali Shipibo communities.
I have tried to keep my long post from being too too long. In all this we also went to see a potential fish farm, a sewing workshop headed up by my friend Candy, a German woman who is married to a Shipibo man, we visited a number of traditional healers, and traveled on boat to Paoyan, a community down the Ucayali River where we hear there will soon be oil drilling. Shipibo Joi is grateful to begin collaborations with some other NGO’s but Shipibo Joi cannot expand and meet our program goals for 2012 without your help. Please consider donating to our programs so that we can be part of the solution to conserving rainforest and supporting the Shipibo Nation through this time of transition. We are in the trenches through our projects. This is a direct link to make a tax deductible donate on line: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=WCSTQAU7VCR5S
Donations are deposited into our Shipibo Joi account at FJC.
Shipibo Joi is also in great need of a FUNDRAISER AND A WEB DESIGNER. To date, all efforts have been on a volunteer basis but we would like to explore organizational seed money to support our work with the Shipibo.
Director, Shipibo Joi
Shipbo Joi is a participant in FJC’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program. FJC is an IRS-recognized 501c3 organization; as such, all contributions made in support of Shipbo Joi are fully deductible to the extent allowed by law.