Achievements of the Indigenous Movement

CONAIE Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador During the six years in which CONAIE has existed, the consolidation of organizations representing most indigenous nationalities in Ecuador has proven to be one of our major achievements; another achievement has been developing the capacity to call upon the unity of the indigenous communities concerning common problems, such as land, education, poverty, discrimination, etc.

Among the achievements that stand out the most, there is one of historical importance, which is the presence that the indigenous movement has at the national level: the political presence that the Indian community has attained in the last several years has been significant not only for Indians but also for the entire Ecuadorian society. We have won the space necessary to be able to decide for ourselves what our opinions are, our point of view, our path. In this manner we have challenged the state and the society in general concerning the political role that should be played by every social movement in Ecuador.

The Struggle for Land

The central goal articulated by the indigenous movement is the fight for land: having a material base such as land is fundamental for living a dignified life. This is a problem that all levels of government have systematically evaded and have not confronted with courage. The fact that three nationalities have been granted a piece of territory in which we have always lived does not mean that the problem has been solved. The Chachis and the Awa demand that their territorial rights be legalized before they are dislocated by the timber companies that are killing the entire ecosystem.

The result of this problem, which has been dragging on for many years, is this: conflicts over land that have been ignored, postponed and forgotten served as the detonator for the Indian Uprising that took place from May 28 to June 10, 1990. As the Indian communities rose up with one voice, we demanded our most basic rights: our lives, our territory, our self-determination. As a result of this action carried out by the Indigenous Movement, it is now recognized at the national level that there is a problem and that it is the indigenous problem, which is not ours alone but that of all Ecuadorians. This could be seen most clearly in the Indigenous March for Life on the part of the indigenous communities of Pastaza and their organization OPIP in April and March of 1992: here not only did all the indigenous organizations of the country go out of their way to give their support, but the entire Ecuadorian population realized that this problem - i.e., the discrimination and injustice with which the Indian has been treated since the European invasion - has to be resolved at once and for everyone.


The fight for land and territory is not the only objective of the Indigenous Movement. Now we are calling for reflection on and discussion of the need to reform the country's laws. The Constitution does not recognize the plurinationality that has always existed here. We want a real democracy to be practiced here for all Ecuadorians, including the indigenous population. In this way the country will be enriched with our cultural diversity, which will contribute to make Ecuador more stable and unified.

The government, in turn, has paid little or no attention to our demands and requests; to express our protest in the face of a decrepit system of government, we decided to boycott the last elections. We want the people to be conscious of the fact that there are other, more participatory forms of government, where citizens can have a greater role with his or her opinions and not merely go to the voting booth, only then to wash one's hands of political matters until four years later when he or she is again required to cast another vote.

With our position we have gathered the general discontent with this mode of politics. These old forms of governing have exhausted themselves, and we believe that everyone has the obligation to participate in the challenge of governing ourselves. True democracy does not exist if there is a high number of unemployed workers, if poverty increases every day, if malnutrition is widespread among our children, if wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. If we don't change this situation, we can hardly speak of democracy.

The challenge of the Indigenous Movement is daunting, our tasks are many, and the road ahead of us is long. We aspire to the attainment of a dignified life with a material foundation, which is the land on which we have lived in the manner of our elders; we strive to be humane, with self-respect and love for our own culture.

As a country, as mestizos, Indians and blacks, we have many bad habits to break, many prejudices to overcome. Racial discrimination, which begins in the home, continues in school, and persists throughout one's entire life, does not help create a unified consciousness of humanity. Acceptance of the validity of the different cultures of every nationality that lives here is a way of accepting ourselves as we are, and thus is our identity strengthened, thus does our spirit of unity grow.

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(Written during December 1992 in Native-l by CONAIE,