Voice of the Shipibo



MARCH 2, 2012


We are the Shipibo Konibo people with a population of approximately 35,000 living in 132 communities along the Ucayali River and the tributaries of the Pisqui, Calleria, Aguaytia, Pachitea, Tamaya among others.  The forests, lakes, rivers, animals, and medicinal plants are our source of life.  They maintain our culture, language, and ancestral knowledge making us strong.

The presence of oil companies and mega-projects like the IIRSA project (Initiative for regional integration of South America) in our Amazonia is a threat to our rights and the unequal distribution of wealth.  The Congress of Brazil has declared that it is in the public interest to open a highway between Brazil and Peru and expects that Peru will do the same.  The execution of this highway project is projected to go from Brazil through Pucallpa and would affect the environment, the rivers, lagoons, and cause serious social and cultural damage.  The highway project plans go through natural protected areas where indigenous people such as the Isconahua live in voluntary isolation and will also affect Shipibo Konibo communities.  Recently, the consulting firm, Consorcio Vial Pucallpa, presented an environmental impact study, but this study did not have the participation of the Shipibo Konibo Nation, thus, it was conducted without regard to the ILO Convention 169.*

There has been no social responsibility for the environmental impacts (oil spills and pollution associated with oil drilling**) in the Corrientes River, Canaan de Cachiaco, and communities in Urubamba where there is severe environmental damage, threatening the future of the Amazon.  In these territories, where there are indigenous communities, land has been auctioned off to multinational corporations who only seek to make a profit off of the natural resources.  When their activities cease, they leave behind contaminated communities, infectious diseases, families who are dislocated, youth who have no future, and communities that are condemned to live in poverty.  At the same time these affected communities are excluded from sustainable development. The water that is used for human consumption is completely contaminated by debris shed by these businesses, and informal gold extraction activities use mercury which is then thrown into the water, polluting the Ucayali River.

In a visit made by the Consejo Shipibo Konibo Xetebo (the Shipibo tribal council) we found many communities lacked basic services; health care and education is still deficient.  With respect to social programs, services have not reached the indigenous populations.  The state receives royalties from the companies (multinational corporations) that fail to benefit communities; far from thinking of sustainable development or the future of Amazonia.

We are calling for solidarity in organizing the “AMAZON DIALOGUE” ,  a meeting with the aim of agreeing on a SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PLAN that will protect the resources and life of the Amazon.  264 representatives of the Loreto, Ucayali, and Huanuco regions will meet on May 10 and 11, 2012 in the city of Pucallpa, Peru.

*”Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1989 and ratified by Peru in 1994. Pursuant to ILO Convention 169, which came into effect in 1991, ratifying governments must implement special systems to protect the rights of their native peoples and introduce a mechanism to consult them on laws, production projects, and policies that may affect their development and their habitat.

Despite ratifying the convention more than 15 years ago, Peru had done nothing to apply its provisions and, in particular, article 6, which expressly establishes the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted on matters affecting their territories and way of life. It was only in 2011 that Congress finally passed the Indigenous and Native Peoples’ Right to Prior Consultation Act.”  (The indigenous organizations in Peru have not agreed with the regulations of this act).


Native Peruvians See Loopholes in Prior Consultation Law
By Milagros Salazar

**translator notes in parenthesis




  1. Elizabeth Borland said:

    I am happy to offer my skills in NVC(nonviolent communication) to support you in your campaign. Letter below sent to Causes who are supporting your campaign.
    “Dear friends,
    Firstly, thankyou for what you have been doing to bring the attention of many to the injustices that you have highlighted. At the same time, I have some concerns whenever the language used in petitions uses demands and presents the organisations(and therefore, by default, the people in them) as “enemies” Having studied the work of Marshall Rosenberg and others, I have learnt that demands and enemy images actually undermine the likelihood of what is needed to be heard actually being heard as the others’ position moves to defence or counter-attack. Behind every organisation are human beings and when we speak to their humanity they are more likely to be receptive and respond in kind. When we highlight all the human needs behind our concerns and understand the human needs behind their intentions before we move into strategies, we are much more likely to find solutions that work for all.
    For example, I want to support the needs of the Shipibo people and I therefore have some reservations about signing something which may be counter-productive.
    In the campaign for the Shipibo people I would start with an approach to open dialogue with Maple energy by valuing the intentions stated on their website: “Maple Energy is committed to achieving the highest environmental standards and respect for the communities in the areas in which it operates. This includes performing work with integrity and under safe conditions. Maple operates in compliance with all laws and carries out Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (EIAs) for its different projects.
    Since the beginning of its operations in Perú, Maple has demonstrated its commitment to making positive contributions to the communities in the areas of its operations by establishing a variety of programs focused mainly on education, health and economic development support programs that benefit the community as a whole. Maple emphasizes on-going communication with the communities and stakeholders to maintain public trust.” In light of these values I would then state the concern for the health, safety and sustainability of the community with regard to the facts that have emerged. The aim is to get understanding and find solutions where all the human needs are met (which is only likely to occur after they have all been heard and understood)

    Elizabeth Borland”

    • Dear Elizabeth, Thank you for your comments, that I just found since I have been in Peru. While I am not directly involved in the struggles that the Shipibo communities are having with oil and gas companies I am well aware of the problems in communities where Maple Gas has been drilling for years. Despite the statements made about Maple Energy being committed to the highest environmental standards, there have been numerous oil spills where Maple Energy is drilling polluting waterways that the Shipibo rely on for food and to drink. A friend from the Alianza Arkana, NGO has told me that he was very disturbed after his visits to these communities where Shipibo are sick, dying from the oil spills that Maple Energy refuses to clean up. These are complicated issues and unfortunately, my experience is that oil and gas companies claim they are responsible but in reality they are not. The Shipibo elected a council a number of years ago but unfortunately they have not been able to organize themselves enough to be an effective organization. There are some other indigenous led organizations that are working on these problems and you may want to check out the work of http://www.alianzaarkana.org. They are involved with these issues whereas Shipibo Joi has beenfocusing more on women and children in the last few years.

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