In 1992, OPIP, the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities and of the Ecuadorian Amazon, or CONFENIAE) and the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (Confederation of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, or CONAIE) organized a caminata, or march, with the explicit goals of “1.) The legalization of our territories” and “2.) The amendment of the constitution to reflect the rights of the plurinational and multicultural reality that is Ecuador today.”
Ecuadorian indigenous stage mass uprising against neo-liberal measures including privatizing water and taking communally held land, 1994
Starting with Ecuador’s founding as a republic in 1822, the country’s
economic policy oppressed Indigenous citizens through measures that led
to the concentration and destruction of Indigenous lands. In 1986,
Luis Macas founded the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of
Ecuador (CONAIE) to advocate for the underrepresented Indigenous
Ecuadorians. CONAIE focused particularly on protecting land and water
rights of Indigenous communities. CONAIE leaders of the 1990s emphasized
demands for a plurinational state, collective rights, and territorial
Rural Ecuador had functioned under the huasipungo land-tenure system since the 16th century. The tenant farmers, called huasipungueros, were mainly of indigenous descent and worked 3 to 6 days a week on hacienda estates in the highlands, owned by absentee elite white families. In exchange for their labor, the laborers received a small plot of land for subsistence, access to pasture land for cattle, and a small cash wage. The indigenous farmers were highly attached to their land although their plots were still owned by the hacienda.
On 6 August 1996, Argentinean General Fuel Company, also known as Compañía General de Combustibles (CGC), signed a contract with the Ministry of Energy and Mines in Ecuador without consultation of Kichwa natives of Sarayaku. The contract allowed CGC to exploit and explore 200,000 hectares of Block 23.
In June 1988, the Arlington Richmond Company (ARCO) acquired rights to explore and exploit petroleum resources in an area of Pastaza province, Ecuador, known as Block 10. Located in the Amazon rainforest in eastern Ecuador (“El Oriente”), Pastaza was barely developed at the time. No roads reached Block 10—the small villages in the area were only accessible via helicopter, small airplane, or a multi-day jungle trek. To the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Pastaza (OPIP), which represented 15,000 locals, mostly of the Quichua nation, ARCO’s acquisition seemed like a dan