Alianza Arkana

The Arkana Alliance is committed to raising awareness about the current environmental and social crises in the Amazon; supporting the creation, connection and strengthening of strategic networks and regional and community-based alliances; and inspiring positive change at local, national and international levels to protect and preserve the people, environment, and ancient traditions of the Amazon Rainforest.
Mar 3, 2014

Kukama-Kukamilla People Demand Social and Environmental Justice

dos de mayo2   Kukama leaders demand justice

Last week over 1000 indigenous people from a major tributary of the Amazon river gathered for a historic meeting in the northern Peruvian Amazon to hear about the government test results of oil contamination in their territory. The findings showed worrying levels of contamination posing a direct health risk to the local people.

Over the course of two days (February 19-20), the assembly of the indigenous Kukama Kukamilla people concluded with a list of ten demands for the government, and a declaration that the Kukama people are in a state of "permanent mobilization" until their demands are effectively addressed.

Those participating represented 70 communities from the Marañon river, two indigenous federations – ACODECOSPAT and AIDECOS - as well as the Kukama women's organization Waynakana Kamatawarakana.

The state agencies presented the results to the assembly in Dos de Mayo (northern Peruvian Amazon) as part of a larger investigation into environmental contamination from decades of oil activities in four major river basins in the Northern Peruvian Amazon. The agencies (OEFA, ANA, DIGESA, OSINERGMIN and SERNANP) work under the coordination of the Ministry of Environment as part of a multi-sectoral commission formed in July 2012.

Historic assembly learns of severe contamination

Contaminated water pump    

In September of last year, the government agencies conducted water, soil and sediment testing in an around the oil lot 8X, which is situated in the largest national reserve in Peru and in the territory of the Kukama Kukamilla people

Among other details, the local participants learned from the commission that:

  • No clean drinking water is available to any of the 17 tested communities;
  • Some drinking water sources contain heavily toxic elements such as Arsenic, Chrome, and Leadin quantities far exceeding Peruvian environmental standards;
  • The surrounding flora and fauna of the lot 8X in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve are heavily affected by hydrocarbons and heavy metals. This area is traditional hunting and fishing grounds for the Kukama communities, therefore affecting them directly.

Demanding justice and respect for life

In the face of these alarming realities, the indigenous assembly presented a list of strong demands. The final declaration (see declaration in Spanish) states that the Kukama Kukamilla people will be in "permanent mobilization" until their mandates for environmental and social justice are effectively met. Specifically, they demand that the government:

  • Declare a social and environmental emergency for the affected zone and bring about rapid interventions.
  • Shut down the oil pipeline connecting the oil Lot 8X with the oil installations in Saramuro on the Marañon River on a temporary basis until the 40 year old pipes – the origin of recurrent heavy oil spills - are entirely replaced with new ones. 
  • Conduct toxicological studies of fish and analyze blood and hair samples of the local population toinvestigate the direct effects of the contamination on people's health.

The assembly furthermore expressed their approval of the legal actions initiated by various government bodies and non-governmental allies of the indigenous federations against Pluspetrol - the Argentian oil company currently operating the concession 8X.

A Visit to Oil Lot 8X

Corroding Pluspetrol pipeline   Oil sludge

In the immediate aftermath of the assembly, two indigenous environmental monitors guided a small team from Alianza Arkana, including a professional photographer, to inspect the aforementioned pipeline, where oil contamination is evident.

The team was able to gather photographic evidence of contamination, including from a large oil spill discovered in June 2013, documented by the monitors in July, and evidence released by ACODECOSPAT to the national and international press in September last year. Crude oil still openly stains the fragile wetlands of the Reserve, and the dimensions of the oil spill seem to have increased significantly.

According to local people and indigenous environmental monitors, another spill in exactly the same area happened later in 2013. Despite photographic evidence and other documentation supporting these claims, Peruvian authorities continue to deny that other spills have happened at this site.

Pluspetrol has deforested a large area around the oil spill, where unapproved work is being carried out by contractors for the company. No activity has been approved by any competent authority. The Peruvian Service for Protected Areas (SERNANP) has declared administrative sanctions against the company for unlawful deforestation.

Meanwhile, indigenous residents are waiting for action. Fed up with empty promises, they are now taking bold action with their declaration of "Permanent Mobilization" until their demands for justice are met.

Jan 17, 2014

Reflections on Intercultural Issues

Shilpa Darivemula is a volunteer who worked with Alianza Arkana at our intercultural school in Puerto Firmeza, as part of a one-year international educational program to study the use of dance as a healing medium in work with young women.

Please read about the workshops she held at the school and her reflections about intercultural issues and self-esteem for young Shipibo girls below. 

The girls all sat in a circle and stared up expectantly at me. We were under a cool thatched roof in the school on a beautiful yet hot day in Puerto Firmeza. It was the first of four workshops that I, along with three amazing women, developed to help improve the self-confidence and self-esteem of the young Shipibo girls ages from 9 to 15 years old. Rebecca and Kaity, two young Shipibo women, and had been discussing the idea of starting a series of workshops for the Shipibo girls in this community for a while.

Rebecca had participated in a workshop aimed at empowering girls run by 'Girls for the World' a wonderful organization from the U.S.A., and noted how it positively impacted the young Shipibo girls of the San Francisco community in Pucallpa who participated. I met Rebecca and Kaity at Alianza Arkana and we, along with Rebeca and Teresa, two Alianza Arkana volunteers from Germany who worked at the school in different projects, decided to support the girls in Puerto Firmeza with a some dance, music, and art workshops.

I was a bit nervous. I had picked a series of what I had thought were a good set of icebreaker games, but then realized how complicated they are to explain in English, let alone in Spanish and then Shipibo. But the team we had was well equipped for the challenge. We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, stating our names, how we feel with a movement, and our favorite color. When the girls stared at my Spanish explanation with a bit of confusion, Rebecca and Kaity and Rebecca's sister Liz, stepped in and translated, which was a huge gift.

We then played a few icebreakers, angering a few of the boys who wanted to join but were told it was only for girls. The girls seemed to really enjoy the workshop and worked very seriously on the unique paper bracelets we made. We had each of the girls try to define self-esteem, a word that resulted in a lot of stares and confusion. So we talked about being confident instead with the idea of developing their understanding of self esteem through further workshops. Each girl made a paper bracelet and began by first writing down 8 sentences about themselves. Interestingly, the girls were unsure of what to write, so we had to give examples, like perhaps our favorite foods, our favorite color, etc. They ended up following those suggestions strictly, oftentimes asking us if what they wrote was alright.

It made me wonder about how in the United States and other western countries, we are always encouraged to "express ourselves", to find our "identity", to "describe ourselves". (Remember that piece of paper you would get at the beginning of each class each year, including in college, asking you to describe yourself in some way? I'm honestly very sure that my professors never read a single one of those surveys, but it always felt good to be able to tell him or her that my favorite color was pink, that my favorite band was 'One Republic', and my favorite class was Science). We begin early and we begin strong, slowly shaping us into exactly what our society wants us to be: independent, self-assured, and "aware" of ourselves.

While looking at these girls, I realized that perhaps our confidence in being able to list off attributes gives us only the façade of self-esteem. In some ways, it makes us more fragile. We are less accepting of changes in ourselves ("When did I stop liking pink and start liking green? But there is only one line for favorite color? Oh my god...can I like TWO colors?"), we are more prone to defining ourselves in linearities rather than circles, single options rather than a plentitude of views, and in the end, all that talk about ourselves....really gets annoying and bit egotistic. I am not saying that we should not do so or that our self-esteem workshops were useless, but I'm saying that perhaps there is an excess of those first-day papers and a lack of open conversations about change, about ourselves, about our interconnectedness.

In these workshops, we tried to pull away from the paper defining and hard and fast rules. We had a few conversations about what we liked and how we felt. The girls enjoyed being able to choose colors, to design their bracelets, and to wear them as well. We left them saying that these bracelets were the first step into learning how to express themselves and learning more about themselves. The girls giggled and smiled, asking us when the next workshop would be. In short, the self-confidence was practiced not through creating definitions or giving examples of how to write about yourself, but in the games, the giggles, the movement, and the arts and crafts. It was in the details where we saw the beginnings of a very long process of finding oneself and we were extremely excited that we could create this moment in Puerto Firmeza with the girls.

We had three more workshops that focused on different arts and aspects. We had a theater class focusing on several theater exercises that the girls liked quite a lot, a dance exchange between classical Indian dance and traditional Shipibo dance and created a choreography together blending both arts, and finally ended with a mask making workshop in which each girl made two masks representing how they felt inside and outside. The girls were not as quick to "define" themselves and at every moment when I asked for undefined self expression, they usually began by staring at me expectantly to show them "how".

Most of their movements and expressions centered around modelling and being happy, which makes me wonder if they pick up what they see as "right" mainly from television and the city. Only when I began jumping around like crazy, did they start to jump around as well and explore other forms of space and expression. I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to let them know that they know what they know and that they shouldn't be afraid of being wrong.

In a world where school consists of rote memorization and being told instead of exploring on one's own, the challenge is mainly learning to be confident to be wrong and to think for oneself. I think the four workshops were useful, but more workshops and more time with the girls, who got more comfortable towards the end, would be wonderful and a true positive impact on their lives.

Many thanks to Alianza Arkana for this amazing opportunity. Thank you to Rebecca, Kaity, Liz, Rebeca, and Teresa.

Dec 5, 2013

Thank you for your support!

"Disappearing" of lake Shanshococha by Pluspetrol
"Disappearing" of lake Shanshococha by Pluspetrol
We thank you for your support of the people of the Pastaza River! After the declaration of an environmental emergency in March, the Peruvian government has now fined the polluting oil company, Pluspetrol Norte, over $7 million for irreparable environmental damage in the area thanks to photographic evidence taken by Alianza Arkana and FEDIQUEP.

However, this fine is an administrative fee that is paid to the State, and could never be seen by the community. Indigneous leaders are frustrated with the lack of initiative by the State regarding the Environemental Emergency,as their people continue without access to clean water, but are working hard to demand accountability and action from the government. 

Specifically, your donations have made the following possible: 
  • Mobility of the indigenous leaders, to be more present in their communities (which lay at long distances away) and inform about the political struggle they lead. This helps to counteract the strategies of oil companies, who often try to bribe villagers and divide and rule in villages to get their support.
  • Facilitated travels for indigenous leaders to attend important political and advocacy meetings with state authorities in cities far away from their traditional territories, pressing forward with their essential demands for social and environmental justice, keeping the pressure up on the state to implement the promises they made.
  • Small monthly support to leaders´ families made it possible for the president and vice president of Fediquep to keep doing what they are doing, politically demanding justice for their people, in continuous meetings and travels to meet with state, while at the same time providing for their families.
  • Facilitated the participation of indigenous leader Apu Aurelio Chino in a regional summit in Iquitos to defend water as a human right, where he was able to spread the experience of his people, build alliances, and warn others from letting extractive industries go ahead on their territories, leaving little behind but environmental devastation.

Thank you for your support!

And please read the latest article by Alianza Arkana on Pluspetrol's disingenuous media campaign targeted at manipulating public opinion in their favor! 

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?