Ecuador Grants Indians title to 3 Million Acres

Washington Post
[Published in The San Francisco Chronicle]
Wednesday, May 20, 1992

Quito, Ecuador

President Rodrigo Borja and Ecuador's Amazon basin Indians ended years of hostility last week by negotiating the granting of legal title to more than 3 million acres of homelands to Ecuador's Indigenous communities.

Some 60 tribal leaders, many wearing headdresses of bright feathers and carrying wooden spears that symbolize their tribal positions, received land titles for 148 communities in a ceremony at the presidential palace. The titles cover lands cliamed by the Quichua, Achuar and Shiwiar tribes in the eastern province of Pastaza. Titles were given to the communities, not individuals, and the land cannot be sold. Development in the area is virtually banned without the advice and consent of the communities, which hold about 20,000 people.

The land grant is one of the largest ever made to Amazon Indians. About 30 percent of Ecuador's 10.5 million people are classified as Indian. Sixty percent are considered mestizo, or mixed race, and the remaining 10 percent are of European or African origin.

Under the agreement, non-Indians already living in the areas are allowed to stay, and the military will continue to have unrestricted access. The Indians also conceded another key point, allowing the government to continue oil exploration on land given to them and recognizing the rights of the state to the proceeds of any oil discovered in consultation with the communities. Borja's four year term is about to end, and political analysts said he was able to make grants--a policy unpopular in many sectors of Ecuador's society-- because he does not face re-election.

(Posted in Native-l on May 24, 1992 by SAIIC,