In recent years, aid organizations and companies working to extract resources from the vast wilds of the Amazon rainforest have reported a number of sightings of uncontacted tribes, the last remaining holdouts of a simpler time. While fascinating to see human beings still living in such a natural state, many of these tribes simply do not wish to assimilate into Western culture, and activists are working to preserve many areas of the rainforest, preventing their lands from being turned over to oil and gas exploration.
While success stories are few and far between, a recent announcement by a Canadian energy company is positive news, as they have agreed to withdraw initiatives to drill for oil in a region of Peru inhabited by uncontacted members of the Matsés tribe. The effort to convince Pacific Rubiales E&P to withdraw from Block 135 was led by Survival International, a “global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.”
This particular area of rainforest in Peru is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on earth, yet Block 135 had been sold to Pacific E&P by the Peruvian government for the exploration of oil and natural gas.
“Peru Block 135 and 138 was acquired by Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. Peru Block 135 and 138 comprise two petroleum and natural gas exploration and development blocks. Peru Block 135 comprises a gross area of approximately 926,000 hectares with two drilling prospects in Maranon Basin. Peru Block 138 comprises a gross area of approximately 370,000 hectares with four drilling prospects in Ucayali Basin. The reserves are located in Peru.”
Reporting on the effort to stop Pacific E&P from entering Block 135, Survival International states:
“The company, Pacific E&P, had previously been awarded the right to explore for oil in a large area of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, a region of immense biodiversity which is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth. It began its first phase of oil exploration in 2012.”
In an open letter to the world, Survival International denounced the Peruvian government’s role in selling out the rainforest and its peoples:
“Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They have made the decision to be isolated and this must be respected…
“The Yavarí Tapiche region is home to uncontacted peoples. Despite knowing of their existence and enormous vulnerability, the government has failed to guarantee their protection…
“These tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Only by creating the proposed Yavarí Tapiche indigenous reserve and implementing effective protection mechanisms that prevent the entry of outsiders, will the indigenous people be given the chance to determine their own futures…
“We are also concerned about the government’s refusal to exclude oil exploration within the proposed reserve…. No exploration or exploitation of oil should ever be carried out on territories inhabited by uncontacted Indians…”
Statements in 2016 by the tribal council of the Matsés express the need for coming together to battle the oil companies responsible for destroying land and dislocating people:
“I don’t want my children to be destroyed by oil and war. That’s why we’re defending ourselves… and why we Matsés have come together. The oil companies … are insulting us and we won’t stay silent as they exploit us on our homeland. If it’s necessary, we’ll die in the war against oil.”
More global action is needed to bring justice to the peoples of the Amazon and to preserve the rainforest for future generations, yet the genocide continues under the merciless power of wealthy corporations and corrupt governments who view the rainforest as a profit center rather than the center of life on planet earth.
As Ecuador has proven, there is little financial and global interest in official programs that seek to permanently preserve areas of the Amazon such as the Yasuní, a place which has the highest concentration of biodiversity on the planet.
When given free rein to ‘explore’ the Amazon, oil companies have a long and heart-breaking history of laying waste to the ecosystems and wildlife of the rainforest, causing widespread contamination of earth and water with oil spills, while covering up these crimes and viciously battling in court to avoid taking responsibility for such atrocities.
For insight into how oil companies avoid liability and responsibility by faking data, review this 2015 video in which Chevron contractors are caught on tape lying about oil samples taken in a destroyed region of the Amazon.