Achuar Congress
The new leadership council for the indigenous Achuar Nation of Ecuador, including the first woman woman to serve on the council, Isabel Wisum.
May 27 to 31, 2016, the Achuar, our indigenous partners in the Ecuadorian Amazon, held a special Congress session in the Achuar community of Wampuik in Ecuador. A total of 516 people participated (415 official delegates and 101 observers) from the 84 Achuar communities belonging to the 16 Achuar associations from the Pastaza and Morona Santiago provinces of Ecuador.

Divisions within Achuar Territory

For the past 9 months there have been two competing slates of leaders claiming to be the official representatives of the indigenous Achuar Nation of Ecuador—Nacionalidad Achuar del Ecuador (NAE). One slate has been aligned with the current ruling political party in Ecuador, Alianza Pais, and has been supportive of the government’s plans for oil development in the Amazon. This has caused sharp divisions within Achuar territory as the traditional cultural view of the Achuar is to honor and protect their territorial home and reject the intrusion of any kind of extractive industry. The processes the government employed in aiding the establishment of the alternative slate of leaders was in violation of the Achuar’s collective rights contained in the Ecuadorian constitution, international treaties on human rights, and the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Sarayaku vs Ecuador.

The representatives at the Congress passed a resolution, that affirmed a declaration from the previous Congress in 2015, that the Achuar in Ecuador would not be divided by external political parties and would stand together as a nation in unity and solidarity to ensure protection of their territory.

Learn more about Pachamama Alliance’s work in the Ecuadorian Amazon

New Leaders Elected

Consistent with this declaration, the Congress elected a new leadership council to serve for a 3-year term. For the first time ever, a woman was elected to the important position of vice president. The new vice president, Isabel Wisum, is also a Community Maternal Health Promoter with Pachamama Alliance’s Jungle Mamas program. She was part of the first and original Jungle Mamas group that started in 2006. Electing a woman into for a leadership position with NAE marks a significant shift in the roles of women in Achuar society. Women historically have not held positions of outward-facing authority in Achuar society, but this election shows that women are now stepping into roles where they can be powerful voices for the defense of their territory and culture.

The following are photos from the Congress session:

Learn more about how the work of Pachamama Alliance supports indigenous people of the Amazon basin to fulfill their right to self-determination by preserving their lands, culture, and way of life.