Indigenous Peoples Call for Urgent Action to Protect the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Region

October 15, 2019

Amazon rainforest and Indigenous rights under imminent threat from oil and mining

(Lima, Peru) — On the heels of widespread indigenous protests in Ecuador, and at the Latin American Parks Congress, the Indigenous federations that are part of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative called for emergency support to stop the governments of Ecuador and Peru from expanding new fossil fuel, mining, and large-scale industrial development in one of the critical headwaters regions of the Amazon River.

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative is led by Amazonian indigenous federations CONFENIAE (Ecuador), AIDESEP (Peru), COICA (Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin), in partnership with Pachamama Alliance, Amazon Watch, Fundación Pachamama, and

In a Declaration released today, the indigenous leaders say their ancestral territories, one of the most biodiverse regions of the Amazon, are under immediate threat from oil drilling, mining, and other industrial scale projects and urge governments and investors to act now to halt approvals and financing of new projects. The release of the declaration is the initial step of a global call for governments and organizations around the world to join in solidarity to support the leadership of indigenous peoples in defending their ancestral territories from massive threats from resource extraction that will expand oil spills and toxic contamination and result in new roads that are a gateway to large-scale deforestation.

Known as the Amazon Sacred Headwaters: Territories for Life, the region spans 74 million acres (30 million hectares) in Ecuador and Peru and is home to over 20 indigenous nationalities. In the face of the Amazon fires and the State of Emergency in Ecuador that have captured the world’s attention, indigenous leaders and allies are presenting an inspiring vision for the future of a region that is considered to be the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem on the planet and contains 3.8 billion metric tons of carbon in the forests and 1.9 billion metric tons of CO2 in the underground fossil fuel reserves.

“We call on the governments of Ecuador and Peru to respect Indigenous rights and territories and cease expanding new oil, gas, mining, other large-scale extraction or industrial-scale agriculture in the region,” reads part of the statement.

Peru, as the host country of this important global gathering, has an obligation to do much more to advance protection of the Amazon rainforest and indigenous rights. Seventy five percent of the Peruvian Amazon is covered by oil and gas concessions and 21 percent is covered by mining concessions; overlapping significantly with the territories of indigenous peoples – including uncontacted peoples. The Peruvian Government lags behind the other Amazon countries in legal recognition of indigenous ancestral territories. Granting territorial rights and title and halting the expansion of industrial extraction in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region represents a critical path forward for Peru to be in line with its commitments as a country that has signed and ratified the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and is a signatory to the Paris Climate accord.

“As indigenous peoples from the region, what happens to the land and the waters happens to us. For too long, our communities have been fractured and harmed by the toxic legacy of industrial extraction. We are united in our solidarity and call for a new era where this region is respected and protected as sacred,” says Domingo Peas Nampichkai, Achuar Leader from CONFENIAE (indigenous organization of the Ecuadorian Amazon). 

“Indigenous peoples are united in our vision and determined to protect our sacred rainforest territories for future generations and for all of humanity,” says Lizardo Cauper, President of AIDESEP, a Peruvian federation of indigenous nationalities.

“While the Amazon rainforest is nearing a tipping point of ecological collapse, Indigenous nations here are increasingly united around their call for leaving fossil fuels and mineral resources in the ground and ending the shortsighted industrial model of “development” that is causing harm to the vital organs of our biosphere,” says Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch founder and Director of Global Strategy for the Initiative. 

“It is unacceptable that as part of the Amazon rainforest burns, another part is being targeted for new oil drilling,” says Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at and Climate Breakthrough Award Winner. “Bolsanaro has said he does not want the billions in support that many countries around the world are offering to protect the Amazon. These funds should be redirected to support the indigenous vision in Ecuador and Peru in ensuring that oil is kept in the ground in the most biodiverse region of the Amazon.”

“The indigenous movement in Ecuador, is the most important stakeholder for the political and economic future of the country. A Green New Deal in Ecuador, includes the permanent protection of the Amazon, to promote a real contribution to fight climate change, and to reduce the poverty, inequity and inequality gap; advancing a new model that respects the life of all”, says Belen Paez, Executive Director of Fundacion Pachamama.

Media Contacts: Indigenous Leaders From Above and Others Available for Interview (with translation provided) Atossa Soltani: Sacred Headwaters Initiative – WhatsApp +1-202-256-9795 / Belen Paez: Fundacion Pachamama – WhatsApp +59 399-994-1930/ Leila Salazar-Lopez: Amazon Watch, 415-341-5509 Kevin Koenig, Amazon Watch, , 415-726-4607, Tzeporah Berman,, 604-313-4713, Tyson Miller,, 828-279-2343 /

Events at the Parks Congress: October 15: 12:15pm: Presentation on the Sacred Headwaters (Indigenous Maloka) 7:30pm: Event at the Indigenous Maloka October 16: 6:50pm: Event on the Napo Tigre Protected Area Vision (Indigenous Maloka)