Ten identified Indigenous civilizations, approximately 115,000 people, inhabit the Ecuadorian Amazon- Achuar, Ai´Cofan, Huaorani, Quichua, Secoya, Shiwar, Shuar, Siona, Taromenani and Zaparo. Their culture, economy and welfare are synonymous with the protection and integrity of their ancestral lands. Aurelio, Shaman of the Ai´Cofan, Cesario, Shaman of the Secoyas and Delio, Shaman of the Sionas, believe that the source of life lies in the equilibrium and reciprocity between humans, flora and fauna. The Rainforest is the genesis of traditions, spiritual life and ancestral medicine, and constitutes the essence of cultural values. The three Shamans contend that an ecologically balanced and uncontaminated environment conditions the survival of Amazon Indigenous cultures.
Delio – Siona Shaman
Shamans Delio, Aurelio and Cesario are Directors of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras. At the same time, and given that leadership in Ancestral Amazon cultures is determined by blood lineages, Aurelio, Cesario and Delio are the traditional representatives of their cultures.
The Ai’Cofan community is comprised of approximately 700 people organized in extended families, and located along the Aguarico River in the province of Sucumbios. They refer to themselves as “Ai” which in their language, “Ingae”, means “people”.
The Secoyas and Sionas number 850 inhabitants, and live on the banks of the Putumayo, Aguarico and Cuyabeno rivers. The three civilizations practice the cult of “Yage” as a means to acquire knowledge, consolidate power and to communicate with supernatural powers. They believe in a universe consisting of two worlds – an underground world inhabited by mortals, referred to as “the house of the earth”, and a celestial world, home of the spirits representing all species living in “the house of the earth.”
The Ancestral medicine practiced by the Shamans is based on over 700 species of plants, endemic to the Amazon Rainforest. These medicinal plants account for 25% of all western pharmaceuticals, although they only represent 10% of the plant species utilized in Shamanic remedies.
Aurelio – Cofan Shaman
Historically the Ai’Cofan, Secoya and Siona communities satisfied their basic needs by following the seasonal migrations of animals in an area extending over 30 million hectares – stretching from Colombia in the north and north east, through Ecuador to Peru in the south. Since 1964 this area has been drastically reduced as a result of oil exploration and the expansion of the agricultural frontier. We estimate that approximately 59% of the primary Rainforest has been destroyed during the last 30 years.
Indigenous mortality rates in the Amazon practically coincide with deforestation- both in time and in percentages. We have documented a drastic reduction of the Secoya and Siona population since 1985, approximately 73% and 60% respectively. The plight of the Ai’Cofanes is particularly bleak. They have been the victims of genocide, land displacement and diseases such as flu, measles and smallpox. Prior to 1970, the total Ai’Cofan population was estimated at 15,000 people. Today only 700 survive, a shocking 95.4% decline.
Cesario Secoya Shaman