Ethnic conflict in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park

April 15, 2013

Waorani land in Ecuador is under huge pressure from oil companies and loggers © John Wright

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In the last month there have been reports of two violent incidents in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park involving members of the Waorani tribe. The killings have renewed claims that outside pressures are causing increased violence in the area.

On 5th March, 2013 two Waorani Indians – Ompore Omeway and his wife Buganei Cayga – were killed by suspected members of the Taromenane, a group of uncontacted Waorani.

Less than a month later, unconfirmed reports have emerged of reprisals against the uncontacted Indians, in which an unknown number are believed to have died. Waorani leaders are in talks with government authorities to investigate.

The Yasuni National Park is a highly biodiverse area of the Ecuadorian Amazon which, together with the neighbouring Waorani reserve, is home to around 3,000 Waorani, who were initially contacted in the 1950s by members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics missionary organization. There are also two closely related uncontacted groups, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane.

The Park, and the Waorani reserve, have long been targeted by oil and gas companies, and illegal loggers. Several oil roads have been built into the Waorani territory.

Waorani leader Cawetipe Yeti told local press, ‘This is not a tourist zone, this is an area in a state of red alert. We’re asking the authorities to act immediately on our request to provide logistical support to protect our (uncontacted) Taromenane brothers.’