In a historic referendum, citizens of Ecuador voted to stop oil drilling in the land of uncontacted peoples, inside Yasuni National Park.

“The Ecuadorian people, aware of the value of their lives, and in solidarity with our uncontacted brothers and sisters Tagaeri, Taromenane and Dugakaeri, said “Yes to Yasuni” in this August 20 referendum. We saved their territory, their lives, their food sovereignty and their medicines in the sacred forest of Yasuni” commented Leonidas Iza, President of the national indigenous organization of Ecuador CONAIE.

“In this small piece of territory in the heart of the Amazon, we can find solutions to the problems that most afflict humanity. Science has shown that in the fight against climate change, the best protected territories are the indigenous ones. This is why we invite the international community to help us, in a supportive and conscious way, to take care of the territories that keep Mother Nature’s life in balance, which save species and also humanity”.

“Protecting the territory of uncontacted peoples who share the land in Ecuador – in the Yasuní National Park – and in Peru – in the Napo Tigre Indigenous Reserve (pending creation) – is of fundamental importance to guarantee the rights of uncontacted tribes to life, to health, survival and land, while respecting international regulatory frameworks that governments must implement,” said Julio Cusurichi Palacios of the indigenous organization of the Peruvian Amazon AIDESEP. “In Peru, the government has officially recognized five uncontacted peoples in the Napo Tigre area. They are transfrontier peoples, living on both sides of the Peru-Ecuador border in the basins of the Napo, Curaray and Tigre rivers, and their tributaries. They have lived in their ancestral lands for centuries, long before the formation of states, whose artificial borders they do not recognize”.

Survival International fights worldwide for the survival of uncontacted peoples of the planet. “This is a huge victory for Ecuador’s indigenous movement and the global campaign to recognize the rights of uncontacted peoples,” said Sarah Shenker today. She is the director of Survival’s Campaign for Uncontacted Peoples of the World.

“The lands of the uncontacted Tagaeri, Dugakaeri, and Taromenane peoples have been invaded for years, first by evangelical missionaries, then by oil companies. Today, finally, they can hope to be able to live in peace again. We hope that the outcome of this referendum will raise awareness of the fact that all uncontacted peoples must have their own protected territories if they are to survive and thrive. Furthermore, we know that their territories are the best barrier to deforestation, especially in the Amazon rainforest. Uncontacted peoples are our contemporaries, a vital part of human diversity and custodians of the most biodiverse places on the planet.”

In Peru, indigenous organizations have been fighting for more than 20 years to establish and protect the Napo-Tigre indigenous reserve for uncontacted tribes, adjacent to Yasuni. Currently, the Perenco oil and gas company is drilling for oil in the Napo-Tigre.