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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Indigenous Diversity in Ecuador

With the pace and stress of the modern world it is easy to loose sight of the mysterious and 
essential interconnections we share with mother earth – Pachamama. Ecuador is a place 
where people still embody this reality, connecting and living in harmony with everything that enriches life to make it meaningful and magical. 

The small, vibrant, country of Ecuador is endowed with dramatic topography, lush rainforests, volcanic landscapes, diverse vegetation and wildlife. Surrounded by Colombia, Peru, and the 
Pacific Ocean it is home to 26 different indigenous cultures, and well over 200 distinct nations. 
These indigenous civilizations represent 25% of Ecuador's population or about 3.5 million people, and their unique cultural fusion make the country very unique. Spanish & Quichua are the 
main languages spoken however there are over ten native languages still spoken - Achuar-Shiwiar, Cha'palaachi, Cofán, Tsachila, Cuaiquer, Secoya, Shuar, Siona, Tetete, & Waorani.

 The country has three main regions: the Sierra or Andes, the Oriente Amazon lowlands, and the Pacific coast. There is an indigenous presence throughout this diverse country, and they are
identified with their respective geographic regions. These peoples history encompasses 11,000 
years living here prior to the arrival of the Europeans, and this rich diversity of multi-ethnic indigenous cultures in Ecuador is at risk for disappearing. 

Many of the indigenous communities continue to live according to their traditional values,
including systems for sharing and exchanging, which clashes with the individualism of modern western society. An example is the highly valued tradition "minga" – communities working 
together to harvest crops or build roads, community infrastructure, and homes.

Because of demographic pressures, the expansion of agro-industry exporting in the Andean highlands, and colonist encroachment in the Amazon, each year indigenous communities are 
left with less land for production. From the land we get food, medicines, materials for 
ceremony, clothes, tools, and crafts. Without land people are without life - land is our 

The Agrarian Reform Law encouraged the colonization of 'empty' forested lands, despite the 
fact these territories had been traditionally inhabited by minority groups for thousands of years. Afro-Ecuadorians were ignored by agrarian reforms because their traditional lands on the 
northern coast were excluded from the legislation. So while the boom brought the hope of 
prosperity, it threatened minority groups and their homelands. 

Ecuador was one of the poorest Latin American countries until the 1970's oil boom. Prior to 
that it was largely dependent on agricultural exports, with very little industry. Ecuador began 
to cash in on the benefits of this new source of wealth. Much of this wealth was wasted in 
military spending, and corruption and poor planning. Inhabitants of oil-producing territories 
suffered displacement and pollution of their lands, parts of Ecuador did experience apparent 
benefits. For example, there was an explosion of infrastructural development: education and 
medical facilities, power systems, highway networks, and canals. 
Unregulated logging, mining and pesticide use, imperil the environment in Ecuador. Unsafe oil 
and mineral extraction practices contaminate rivers, and cause cancers and skin diseases. Oil extraction in the Amazon has already caused the extinction of the Tetete and Zaparo 
nationalities and continues to threaten indigenous peoples.

In 1986 this diverse group of indigenous cultures formed a national group.CONAIE The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador  It is currently the primary political  institution of the Indigenous, and now the second largest political party. CONAIE is influential 
 in national politics, and contributed to the ousting of presidents  Abdalá Bucaram in 1997 and 
 Jamil Mahuad in 2000. 

  The 1998 Ecuadorian constitution recognizes Ecuador as a pluri-ethnic nation and guarantees 
the rights of both indigenous peoples and Afro-Ecuadorians. This includes the right to 
collective territory, the use of natural resources, cultural patrimony, and bilingual education. 
Political turmoil and economic conditions however has meant little actual realization of these 
rights beyond paper recognition. The socio-economic disparities between indigenous and 
Afro-Ecuadorian and the majority white/mestizo population, continues to be significant. 

Currently the primary challenges are social : machismo, domestic violence, child labour, 
hygiene, education, and preserving traditions and culture.
Much of Ecuador's oil wealth lies in the Amazon rainforest region where some indigenous populations still live in voluntary isolation. Of the 400,000 barrels of oil per day produced by Ecuador more than 32,000 barrels annually spill into the Amazon River systems, mostly in 
areas inhabited by indigenous groups.

In 2005, members of the Hauorani indigenous were unsuccessful in preventing plans by 
 Petrobras a Brazilian oil company to drill for oil in the Yasuní forest. Insensitive environmental practices have damaged the environment and caused the extinction of smaller indigenous groups
like the Tagaeri & Taromenani, who had been isolated from the outside world until recently. 
An estimated additional untapped 900 million barrel oil reserve has been identified in the heart 
of the bio-diverse rainforest. In light of ecological concerns – including the future of indigenous populations in June 2007 Ecuadorian officials indicated to the UN that Ecuador would ban exploitation of huge oil reserves if compensated by the international community for its effort to 
save the Amazon region and its indigenous inhabitants from ecological collapse. They hoped to 
raise 350 million dollars per year, approximately 50 percent of what the state would earn from extracting the petroleum. Unfortunately the idea did not receive the necessary support. 
The government aims to strengthen Intercultural Bilingual Education, help preserve traditions 
and customs of the native peoples, and provide quality education. On July 23rd 2014 more than 
 200 students of indigenous nationalities in Cuenca graduated with a Bachelor degree in 
Intercultural Bilingual Education and will become part of the Ecuadorian public education 
system. The program sponsored by the Ministry of Education promotes teacher training of 
teachers to indigenous nationalities of the coastal, andean and amazon regions. The Achuar, 
Awa, Chachi, Cofan, Huaorani, Quichua, Sápara, Sequoia, Shiwiar, Shuar, and Siona peoples
will benefit. 

Ecuador is building 14 of the millennium schools in the Amazon that will preserve indigenous languages and culture. The inauguration of the first was in Santa Rosa - El Chaco in Napa, cost 
$ 5 million dollars, and has laboratories for physics, chemistry and languages, a multi-purpose 
room, bar, parking, library, restrooms, civic courtyard, technology labs, smart boards, 
classrooms, sports courts and offers early education to high school.

"We are heading towards a public education with access to everyone, quality education and completely free, that is living in total democracy", said President Correa who also made 
reference to the fact that these schools are financed by 12% of the oil surplus.

Most visitors to Ecuador learn about the diversity of the indigenous through their visits to famous markets for arts & crafts, or through exposure to cultural rituals in festivals when traveling into 
the Amazon, or through the Sierra. These experiences are like entering into another world filled 
with sights, vibrant colours, smells, flavours, and sounds often never experienced before.

Journey with us as we endeavor to share our explorations and experiences with the unique 
diversity of our local people.

The Paleo Indians origins date back about 11,000 years primarily hunting large game and using 
stone tools. Hunting and gathering cultures evolved to wider varieties of game and gradual domestication of agriculture. The first farmers in Ecuador were the Las Vegas culture from 
the Santa Elena Peninsula, who engaged in ritual burial and intensive gardening, and are known 
for the domestication of squash. 

Followed by the early Valdivia culture that developed in the coastal region, while the Caras 
and the Quitus united to form an elaborate civilization which ended with the birth of Quito as 
the capital.  Known for their utilitarian ceramics, fishing, and cultivation of maize, cotton, mate, 
coca, and water plantain. In the Sierra they cultivated the locally developed crops of potatoes, 
quinoa, peppers, & peanuts. Animal husbandry domesticated the llama, alpaca, guinea pig, and muscovy duck.

An island in the estuary of the Santiago River home for Las Tolita, artisans that made alloys of platinum and gold creating the material into miniatures and masks. The Jama-Coaque, Bahía, Guangala, and Jambalí also practiced metalwork in other areas of the Ecuadorian coast.
Trade networks were established and different styles of pottery made. Metallurgy, weaving, and ceramics refined, agriculture intensified, and urban centres developed. 
Prior to the invasion of the Inca, the indigenous societies of Ecuador had complex organized 
tribal communities and diverse social, cultural, and economic systems. The ethnic groups of the central Sierra were generally more advanced in organizing farming and commercial activities for efficiency and specialization. Year long harvests of a wide variety of crops provided economic success.

The Quichua people are the largest group. Their tribal name can also be written as Quechua, 
Quichua, or Kechua. Large numbers fled their mountain homeland for the coast and the jungle 
during the Spanish conquest. There were also significant deaths as a result of diseases brought 
by the European conquerors. An official census in 1580 recorded 8.28 million. In 1839, 250 
years later, that number had fallen to 1.393 million. It has bounced back with currently over 
12.5 million - the largest indigenous population in the world.

The Andean Cultures

96% of Ecuador's Indigenous population are Highland Quechuas living in the valleys of the 
Sierra. They are primary descendents of the Incans. They speak Quechua and include the 
Cañari, Caranqui Cayambi, Chimbuelo, Otavalenos Quitu-CarasPaleo, Panzaleo
Pasto, PichinchaPuruháQuito  SalasacanSaraguro,  Tugua, Tungurahua, and 

The Andes contains 30 mountain peaks of volcanic origin. The highlanders live amongst them 
on hillside terraces farming maize, quinoa, beans, potatoes, and squash with systems for planting
and harvesting multiple cycles of crops. 


The condor is considered sacred representing the god of peace, and the eagle the god of strength.
Shamanism is practiced diagnosing and treating illness with rituals and natural plant medicines.

In June, all highland Quechua communities celebrate Inti Raymi - a harvest festival of the sun. 
A traditional sun dance where the dancers move in a rainbow pattern, wearing wool masks and feather crowns. The feathers are from the extinct pacharaco bird. The community spectators are costumed representing anything from wolves, to brides, to shamans.

Many tribes resisted the encroachment by the Inca. However the Cañari, in the province of 
Azuay near Cuenca, were the most advanced, and most feared by the Inca, due to their fierce resistance to the Incan expansion. Cañari used a lunar calendar and built temples in circular or moon-like shapes. Cañari construction rivaled the Incan capital, Cuzco.

Ingapirca ( remains shown above ) & Tumebamba's impressive and beautiful architecture 
was known as the "second Cuzco." Their architecture remains were later destroyed by Spaniards 
and the Incas. While they retained their ethnic origins, the Inca language and social structures 
came to dominate. 

 The Cañari held the snake and the macaw sacred believing they were their ancestors.

Today they are probably most well known for the Panama Hat which they started making for 
their economic survival in the 1950's.

Descendants of the Cara Indians from over 500 years ago, Quichua is their native language. 
They are very hard working people, skilled textile weavers, famous throughout the world for 
their traditional pan flute music and crafts.

 Famous for the Otavalo market ( plaza de Ponchos ) of art, embroidery, jewelry musical 
instruments.  They are easily identified by their traditional dress.

 For men a blue poncho, white pants, long braided hair ( shimba ) topped with a black felt fedora. 
Women wear distinctive white lace colourfully hand embroidered blouses, dark skirts with a
black sash, shawls, and often jewelry. They are probably the most prosperous indigenous group 
in South America, traveling the world selling their alpaca wool sweaters, unique handicrafts and 
playing traditional Andean music.

 While primarily concentrated around Otavalo in the province of Imbabura they have established 
a successful outlet for their goods in most cities throughout Ecuador. It is fascinating that with 

their success in the modern world, the Otavaleno's have managed to hold on to centuries-old 
traditions.  They are very proud people and it shows.

For more information about the people of Otavalo:




Quichuas de Chimborazo
Chimborazo has the most Indigenous people numbering 250,000 representing approximately 40% of the province's population.
Known as the most rebellious highland tribes Cachas, Lictos, Coltas, Calpis, Pulucates they have very distinctive dress.

Salasaca, a community located centrally in the Tungurahua Province halfway between Ambato and Baños. The Salasacan people number about 12,000 and speak Quichua & Spanish. They are known for rebellious social behaviour.
The area has a unique small black cherry - Capuli. Their main economic activities are agriculture, raising livestock, and handwoven tapestries made on ancient looms. A loom can be found in mosthomes where sheep's wool is washed and coloured with vegetable dyes for weaving. 

Tapestry designs depict scenes from their daily lives. The handicrafts, ponchos, bags, 
handbags, hats, & tapestries may be found in the central plaza market "Plaza of the Arts". 

Their traditional melodies use a flute and drum. Their traditional dress is a shirt and white linen 
trousers, a long, narrow black poncho and a white woolen hat decorated with a red or green
ribbon.  Their traditional house has walls made of mud and bamboo, no windows, one door, and a straw roof. The bed, sleeps the entire family , is made of bamboo.

The Saraguro Natives, number around 30,000, in the southern province of Loja have gained 
economic independence through ranching & cattle production. Their land holdings are 
sufficient enough to : provide their own food (maize, potatoes, beans, squash ) dependent solely 
on rainfall; provide clothing from sheep wool ; firewood fuel from their forests; timber for home 
construction; and raise cattle for selling. Saraguros often individually own large cattle ranches 
which is highly controversial with the rest of the Indigenous movement which emphasizes 
collective rights and land use.

Saraguros language is Quichua as well as Spanish. Their traditional dress is based on 
black-dyed clothing, shorts for men with flat-brimmed hats, and skirts, shawls, and silver 
bead necklaces for women, for both hair is worn in a long ponytail.
They have pursued a wide range of occupations and professions and participate in the modern
consumer society owning vehicles, computers, televisions, stereo systems, cameras etc.
The community of Saraguro has established an Indigenous center and is welcoming tourists 
and providing tours. To learn more about the Saraguro people, you can visit their site, Saraguro, 
Province of Loja, Ecuador.

The Amazon Cultures

The Amazon rainforest, rich in flora and fauna, has areas which are protected: Yasuni National Park, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Huaorano Protectorate, Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, Limoncocha Biological Reserve, & Sangay National Park. The Amazon holds 3 of Ecuador's most important rivers: Putumayo, Napo and Pastaza. 40 % of the earth's fresh water flows through the Amazon basin winding its way thousands of miles through the rainforest. In the Amazon river there are islands as large as Switzerland, and many points where you will see neither shore from the middle. Inside the rainforest dugout canoes use the rivers for travel and transport to riverbank settlements. 

600,000 Indigenous inhabitants are scattered throughout the rainforest with silviculture as their primary economy. Over 200 distinct nations most notable are the Achuar or Shiwiar, Cofán, the Huaorani, Oriente Quichua (the Canelo and the Quijos), the Shuar, the  Siona-Secoya, and the Zaparo. 

These tribes are the guardians of the world's biological heritage - having lived there for more than 10,000 years, they know its trees, animals and rhythms. Many live in voluntary isolation in this remote amazon rainforest. This garden of eden is home to some of our favorite foods: avocado, black pepper, Brazilian nuts, cayenne pepper, cashews, cocoa, cinnamon, eggplant, figs,ginger,sugarcane, vanilla and yams. 

They extract dyes from the achiote plant for face paint, and curare poisons for blowgun darts from various other plants. Shamans diagnose and treat illness with rituals and plant medicines. 

Access to the jungle is obtained by road from Quito to Coca, Baños to Puyo, or Cuenca to Macas.

Achuar or Shiwiar  

About 5,000 Achuar or Shiwiar Indians live in huts above the riverbanks in the southern Amazon rainforest in the province of Morona Santiago bordering Peru. They speak Achuar,  a Jivaroan language. The Achuar are related to the Shuar. They share the same area, many of the same customs, traditions and also speak a similar language. 

The rainforest, their home for thousands of years, is their sacred place of worship. They live without electricity, automobiles, or roads. They are self sufficient with the forest providing them food, medicine, and materials for construction. Their ecosystem is harmoniously shared with pink dolphins, toucans, and parrots. 

Life centers on the domestic household with hunting, fishing, and gardening pursuits. Women give birth to their children in the sanctity of their gardens. The men hunt with 8 ft long blowguns  and " pencil lead " thin darts. Fishing may be done with a hook and line or with a wicker basket filled with crushed barbasco vines which weaken the fish.

Their huts are 25 ft high oval structures, open on the sides, with palm leaf roofs, dirt floors, and a bench around the circumference. Cooking is done on an open fire, and sleeping in a small enclosed area. 

Daily each morning the entire family gathers to tell stories. These stories serve as guidance for the children and to preserve their people's history. 

Some western technology such as motors for canoes, chainsaws, lamp torches, rifles and solar powered radios have been incorporated into their lives. An airstrip saves lives during medical emergencies. Even today these western influences are minimal. They want access to education and health care to evolve and retain their rights. 

Their economic security is currently provided by tourism where they opened Kapawi Lodge & Reserve hosting about 1,000 visitors annually. United Nations has declared it one of the top five environmental conservation and community development projects in the world. Currently embroiled in a struggle to protect their resources in which native people have almost always lost. The government has ordered the breakup of a group named Fundacion Pachamama supposedly in an attempt to stifle dissent and quiet those that speak for the Achuar. 


The Cofán number 2,100 and are the oldest surviving indigenous culture in the Sucumbios Province - northeast Amazon. Their communities are along the banks of the Bermejo River in the Cayambe-Coca Reservation. There is no road access to their settlements rather they use canoes and travel the river. Their language is A'lngae. 

They are known for their piercings in their noses and ears for displaying feathers, and flowers. Currently they are working to bring back traditional animals to their region by raising turtles and caimans for release into the river. Pink dolphins, tapir, and several monkeys which are endangered in other regions have healthy populations there.


Approximately 2,500 Huaorani, known as one of the most violent cultures (warring savages),territory extends from the Napo river in the north, to the Curaray river in the south. 

They have an extensive botanical knowledge of complex plants and trees for their medicines,poisons, and hallucinogens. In fact the symbiotic relationship with the rainforest transcended into the spiritual practice of Shamanism. 

They have a spiritual belief that after death one walks a forested trail to the afterlife. On that trail a large anaconda lies waiting. Those unable to escape the snake fail to enter the spiritual domain and return to the earth as termites.

Blowguns with poison tipped arrows, and spears are the main weapons for hunting and fishing. When hunting for their food they held deer, snakes, and the jaguar as sacred. The Huaorani people and crude oil were both discovered at the same time in the Amazon Basin. The western world was most interested, but of course there was no commonality between the interested groups. In 1990 the Huaorani won rights to a land reserve within Yasuni National Park. Speaking the language of Wao Tiriro, they remain the most isolated from civilization, hostile to outside intrusions and willing to resort to violence to defend their territory. Threatened by oil exploration and illegal deforestation practices they continue to reject outside contact and move deeper into isolated areas. The Tagaeri and Taromenane tribes continue to live entirely off the land without external contact to this day. As isolated indigenous groups throughout the world continue to be assimilated into surrounding cultures, hopefully we can learn from the Huaorani experiences and avoid repeating the mistakes made. 

A new television series "Surviving the Tribe", produced by National Geographic, filmed one of its episodes with the Huaorani indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Hazen Audel learns about daily life in the jungle- walking and climbing trees barefoot, making fires, building a blowgun to hunt monkeys, mounting piranha teeth on the tips of darts and coating them with curare, the neurotoxic venom that paralyzes. It shows us that sometimes the most important things in life are the simple things.

Quichuas Amazónicos

The Amazonian Quichuas' population is between 30,000 and 40,000, whom are divided into two subgroups: Napu Quichuas Runa of the Upper Napo river and the Canelos Quichuas, located in the province of Pastaza. They speak the Quichua language which was found in the Amazonregion before the conquest as a trade language and introduced from the Andean mountains in the seventeenth century by Catholic missionaries.
The Shuar, the second largest, and most studied Amazonian group are famous as fierce warriors, headhunters, head-shrinkers, and for being practicing Shamans. Shamanic practices are natural cures for human ailments, curses to cause enemies ailments or accidents, and to remedy problems caused by enemy shamanic practices. Hallucinogens of various kinds were used by Shuar shamans. 

Their geographic home is protected from outside interference by the eastern slopes of the rugged Andes and angry river rapids. When the Spanish invaded their territory the Shuar were successful in revolting, and most encroaching Spanish settlements were destroyed and their occupants driven away. 

Shuar homes known as "jivarías" were single room structures - divided for men's and women's spaces, oval in shape, with thatched roofs and chonta-pole walls. Traditionally they were isolated in small clusters of 2 or 3 along riverbanks and only accessible by canoe. Once food resources were depleted in the area they would move to a new location. 

As horticulturalists they would clear the jungle vegetation and plant gardens of manioc. Manioc is both eaten and fermented into an alcoholic drink known as chicha. As they raised few animals, hunting small animals with blowguns and poison darts and fishing were their major food sources.
Sionas and Secoyas
The Sionas and Secoyas are located in the northeastern part of the Amazon, in settlements along the banks of the Aguarico river. Their language is Tucano with historic and linguistic connections to Colombian Indigenous groups. Originally they were two separate ethnic groups with similar cultures and languages that were merged due to intermarriage. Men hunt, fish, make houses & canoes, clear gardens, wood carving, hammocks, and featherwork. Women cook, raise the children, plant & tend the gardens, make clothes, bags, pots, and ceramics. 

Their territory was devastated by oil exploration and they fought back by suing Texaco for more than one billion dollars for a variety of environmental abuses, including dumping more than three thousand gallons of oil a day into their lagoons. 

Ramón Piaguaje is the most famous Secoya with his painting "Eternal Amazon." It was selected from over 22,000 entries by professional artists from 51 countries as the winner of the first prize of the United Nations Millennium Art Exhibition in aid of UNICEF - "Our World in the Year 2000." 

 The Siona people are a very small indigenous group of about 200 live in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Sucumbios province. They share territory with the Secoya, and speak Tucano. Besides some traditional activities for subsistence, they now have tourism activities. This sector has generated various sociocultural and economic changes such as immigration to neighboring cities, gender issues, and economic dependency on tourism revenues.

The smallest indigenous group, nearly extinct, having their home in the amazon jungle area near Peru. Their history is an example of the devastating impact of Western civilization as their population fell from 200,000 to a few dozen. Palm hearts were their main vegetable and they fished the rivers and used blowguns to hunt small animals for food. They believed spider monkeys to be their ancestors and therefore sacred. Zaparo is the language spoken. 

The Coastal Cultures

Coastal lowland groups form less than 1% of the indigenous population. They continued the traditions of their Santa Elena peninsula predecessors. They include the Awá( Coaiquers) Cayapas
(Chachi ), Chorrera, Esmeralda, Huancavilca, Machalilla, Manta, Puna, and 
the Tsachila,
who refined the ceramics of the Valdivia culture. They were seafarers and 
fishermen, but also practiced agriculture and trade, with each other and the tribes in the Sierra. 
The most important commodity they provided were Spondylus shells, which was a symbol of fertility.

Awá ( Coaiquers)

The Awá or Coaiquer are an ancient indigenous people that are found in the northern province of Carchi, Imbabura & Esmeraldas. The population of several thousand speaks the language Awapits. Their Reserve was established in 1987 but unfortunately illegal logging and mining activities continue. The Awá traditionally hunt, gather, fish, and cultivate plants. Today they also have livestock, such as pigs, chickens, ducks, & guinea pigs.

Their agriculture is known as "slash and mulch," where the land is cleared leaving the fallen vegetation to decay providing a rich humus mulch for growing. They practice intercropping and  
grow different varieties of manioc, plantains, maize, Colocasia, Xanthosoma, beans, sugarcane, 
 hot peppers, chirimoya, tomato, tamarindo, mango, achiote, borojo, naranjilla, papaya, inga, avocado, and peach palm. 

Although many Awá Coaiquer attend Catholic services, fundamentally this is due to their desire
to imitate customs that provide them prestige in the eyes of Whites, rather than an internalization 
of these religious beliefs. Death is seen as simply moving to another life. When the dead are 
buried, food, tools, and clothes are placed with the body so they will be able to fulfill their duties 
in the next life. Because of this belief extremely sick people receive no medical care to prolong 
their lives, which would be contrary to their supernatural beliefs.

In February of 2009, 39 Awá were mass murdered reportedly by both Revolutionary Armed 
 Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian army.

Chachi or Cayapas

The Chachi or Cayapas were originally from Imbabura province in the highlands. They fled to 
the coast during the Inca & Spanish conquests. Now they often clash over limited resources 
with the Afro-Ecuadorians who occupy the same region. Their language is Chapalachi. 
Traditionally their economy was based on hunting, gathering, and fishing, but now they 
engage in agriculture for domestic consumption and grow coffee and cacao for export.

About 13,000 Chachi live in the Chocó rainforests in the Esmeraldas province alongside 
thousands of animals including monkeys, opossum, ocelots, pacas, jaguarundi, coati, toucans, 
parrots, and hummingbirds. The Chocó forest also supports a coastal mangrove system. 
Mangroves are important because they filter the water, prevent erosion and protect the land 
from tropical storms.


They get their food, medicine and fuel for fire from these forests. Food such as bananas, 
mangos, papayas, citrus and guava, also fish, shrimp, & crab from the mangroves. One 
very important plant that grows under the forest canopy here is cocoa trees. The fruit of the 
cocoa tree grows in large pods that hang from the trunk and branches of the tree. Inside the pod 
is a white delicate flavoured fruit and dark purple seeds from which chocolate is made.They want 
to continue to harvest cocoa so not to destroy the rainforest - home to so many plants and animals. They grow cocoa in the shade so that they can keep the rainforests standing. Essentially this
means that crops grow in the rainforest, instead of cutting down the trees to make room for their crops.

The Tsáchila people ( also known as Colorado ) live in the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and are the most well known coastal group. Their notoriety arises from an elaborate 
head decoration, the use of red body paint, and a hairstyle fashioned to look like achiote seed 

At one time the Tsáchila community was subjected to the ravages of smallpox. A Shaman 
requested spiritual guidance for a cure and they were guided to an achiote bush. Covering 
themselves with the red juice the plague of smallpox was reduced drastically. They have
been forever grateful and continue to use the plant for disease protection. 
Their economic activity is primarily agriculture cultivation of pineapple, papaya, oranges, 
harvesting native tropical products for traditional medicine, and the Tagua or Corozo nuts 
used to manufacture hand-crafts. 
Traditional dress for men is horizontally striped cobalt blue/black and white skirts, and for 
women brightly colored horizontally striped skirts.


The Afro-Ecuadorians are descendants of black African slaves brought by the Spanish in 1533 
for their conquest of Ecuador from the Incas. The ship headed for Peru was stranded off the Ecuadorian coast allowing their escape. Currently there are over 1.1 million Afro-Ecuadorians located mainly on the northwest coast in the province of Esmeraldas and the Valley of Chota in Imbabura. They represent about 5 % of the country's population. 


Their most well known cultural influence is their distinctive marimba music using marimbas 
and drums, and bomba played with guitars and bongo drums. 

One of the most famous Afro-Ecuadorians currently is Ecuador's national soccer team's captain Antonio Valencia who also plays for Manchester United.

Resources on American Indian history, culture and society in Ecuador:

Life and Death in Early Colonial Ecuador: Interesting book about the post-Columbian 
history of the Indians of Ecuador.

Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador: History of the modern indigenous

 rights movement in Ecuador.

Blood, Revenge, War and Victory Feasts Among the Jibara Indians of Eastern Ecuador: 

An anthropology book on the Jibaras.

Sumak Allpa: Native Ecuadorian organization working to preserve indigenous culture.

Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador: Article dealing with the various Ecuadorian Indian tribes.

Languages of Ecuador: Map showing where Ecuador's languages are spoken.

Native American Nations in Northern South America: Information and photographs of
 the Quechua and other tribes in this region. 



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