Resistance in an Amazonian Community: Huaorani Organizing against the Global Economy

Resistance in an Amazonian Community: Huaorani Organizing against the Global Economy

Resistance in an Amazonian Community: Huaorani Organizing against the Global Economy

Resistance in an Amazonian Community: Huaorani Organizing against the Global Economy

Synopsis

Like many other indigenous groups, the Huaorani of eastern Ecuador are facing many challenges as they attempt to confront the globalization of capitalism in the 21st century. In 1991, they formed a political organization as a direct response to the growing threat to Huaorani territory posed by oil exploitation, colonization, and other pressures. The author explores the structures and practices of the organization, as well as the contradictions created by the imposition of an alien and hierarchical organizational form on a traditionally egalitarian society. This study has broad implications for those who work toward "cultural survival" or try to "save the rainforest."

Excerpt

In 1990 the Huaorani people of eastern Ecuador formed the Organización de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana or ONHAE. The group of young, Spanish-literate men who initiated this step wanted an organization that could speak for the Huaorani in dealings with the multinational oil companies, missionaries, and state agencies that were increasingly threatening Huaorani territory and autonomy. In founding a nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Huaorani were emulating the organizational processes of the Shuar (Jívaro), Quichua, and Siona-Secoya groups, and joining with them in provincial, regional, and national confederations. This represented a dramatic step outside of Huaorani cultural practices and necessitated the adoption of notions of contract, government, democracy, and hierarchical power prevalent in western capitalist societies.

The organization thus formed has found itself positioned among and within a plethora of competing interests, powers, and ideologies. Missionaries, oil companies, environmentalists, and other indigenous organizations have all tried to co-opt, manipulate, or silence ONHAE. The organization’s leaders have been accused of corruption, threatened, condemned as “communists,” and beguiled with gifts and attention designed to influence them. They have signed agreements with the Ecuadorian state and the oil companies, in apparent contradiction of their organizational positions and public statements.

Notes for this section can be found on page 24.

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