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Indigenous community in Ecuador wins legal fight to reclaim ancestral land after 80 years

November 29, 2023
Indigenous people of the Siekopai nation demonstrated outside the National Court of Justice (CNJ) to demand the ratification of the right to keep 'invaders' out of their ancestral territory, in Quito, Ecuador, August 24, 2021
Indigenous people of the Siekopai nation demonstrated outside the National Court of Justice (CNJ) to demand the ratification of the right to keep 'invaders' out of their ancestral territory, in Quito, Ecuador, August 24, 2021

QUITO — An indigenous community has won a court battle to regain ownership over its ancestral homeland in the Ecuadorian Amazon, more than 80 years after they were displaced because of war.

An Ecuadorian appeals court backed the Siekopai nation’s claim over Pë’këya, a biodiverse territory in northwest Ecuador along the border with Peru, according to a court ruling provided to CNN by Amazon Frontline, a nonprofit organization working with indigenous people to defend their land rights.

The Siekopai were displaced during the Peru-Ecuador war in the 1940s.

Last September, the community, which has only about 800 members, filed a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian state, claiming it was violating their right to ancestral property, Amazon Frontline said.

In its ruling on Friday, the Provincial Court of Sucumbios gave Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment 45 days to deliver a property title to the Siekopai people for more than 104,000 acres of land, court documents show.

“This is a historic moment for the Siekopai Nation,” said Elias Piyahuaje, President of the Siekopai Nation of Ecuador. “The land of Pë’këya has always been and will always be ours. For over 80 years, we have been fighting to get our land back.”

The ruling “will mark the first time that the Ecuadorian government delivers a land title to an indigenous community whose ancestral territory is found in a protected area,” Amazon Frontline said, adding it “sets an invaluable precedent for all indigenous peoples fighting to recover their lands across Latin America and the world.”

Piyahuaje said: “We are fighting for the preservation of our culture on this planet. Without this territory, we cannot exist as Siekopai people.” — CNN


November 29, 2023
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