Thursday, February 24, 2011

Indigeous Ecuadorian Woman Humbles Chevron

Blog post by Tina Winterlik
Feb 24/2011

Indigenous Ecuadoran woman humbles US oil giant

Marie Aguinda

 She has no legal training, and doesn't speak the Spanish that dominates government in Quito but indigenous villager Maria Aguinda helped bring a landmark judgment against US oil giant Chevron for polluting the rain forest she calls home.

The diminutive grandmother whose modest home sits near marshes clogged for decades in sticky oil has been at the heart of the David-and-Goliath case, and spoke out after Chevron was slapped last week with a $9.5-billion fine, among the heaviest ever handed down for environmental damage.

"Before I die they have to pay me for the dead animals, and for what they did to the river, and the water and the earth," the 61-year-old Aguinda told AFP at her home in Rumipamba, a town in remote Orellana province where pollution caused by 30 years of oil drilling and petroleum accidents had become a sad fact of life.

Texaco operated in the area between 1964 and 1990, and was bought in 2001 by Chevron, which inherited Texaco's legal nightmare.

"The demand (for compensation) is going on track," said the ethnic Quechua woman, pointing to a nearby spot marked by spillage from an oil well run by Texaco in the 1970s.

"Mary Aguinda et al" are the opening words of the suit launched in 1993 on behalf of 30,000 residents of Orellana and Sucumbios provinces, in which they charge Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic crude during its operations, fouling rivers, lakes and soil and causing cancer deaths in indigenous communities.

Aguinda said she believes her husband and two of his 10 children died from effects of the pollution, which rights group Amazon Watch says has affected an area the size of the US state of Rhode Island. Read more here
This totally reminds me of the book I read in the late 1990's called Savages. It was a wonderful book. Here is what Wikipedia says about it. I still have the book but it's packed away. I should read it again. I wonder what happened to the  Huaorani Indians

Joe Kane is an American author of two books and is also a journalist who writes for numerous publications such as The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Esquire.
Kane is best known for his book Running the Amazon (1989), a firsthand account of the only expedition ever to travel the entire 4,200-mile Amazon River from its source in Peru to the Atlantic Ocean, which took place between August 1985 and February 1986. The book is widely considered a classic of adventure literature.[1]
In 1991, Kane traveled to Ecuador to learn about the Huaorani Indians and their struggles with international oil companies who were exploiting the Amazon with poor environmental practices such as setting off explosive charges, building new roads and oil rigs, and causing oil spills. Based on his experiences there he wrote Savages (1995).
--------------------------------- His is a review of the book

Book Review by Cheryl Musch

Savages by Joe Kane (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995) 273 pages, full-color photographs, map, bibliography.

The cover of Joe Kane's Savages promises the sensational story of "how one small band of Amazonian warriors defended their territory against hell-bent oil companies, dogged missionaries, and starry-eyed environmentalists."

It is dominated by a striking black and white photograph of Moi, a Huaorani carrying his blowgun darts, his long hair wrapping around his bare shoulders and chest--the Huaorani poster child for the environmental movement. Kane delivers a sometimes sensationalistic, sometimes activist, sometimes travelogue view of Huaorani life and the Huaorani's struggle to save their environment from unscrupulous oil companies. 

By his own admission, he "crossed the street" from being a journalist and "tried to become an activist." The result is neither journalistic, nor activist, nor academic, but rather a novelized portrayal of the Huaorani.

The Huaorani are a relatively small indigenous group, numbering less than 2,000, living in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Historically they have been called "Aucas," a Quechua word meaning "savages."

By his own admission, the Huaorani consider this name "a gross insult," and it is mystifying why Kane befriended the Huaorani and then plastered this "gross insult" on the cover of the book.

The Huaorani have always been determined to keep intruders out of their territory. Invasions by their indigenous neighbors, the Shuar and the Quichua, encroachments by oil company personnel, and intrusions by missionaries have been met with spear killings. And the Huaorani frankly state that if these violations of their land continue, they will respond with "spears from all sides."

Because of their perseverance in remaining isolated, the Huaorani have remained somewhat of a mystery. Savages provides some good basic anthropological information about the everyday life of the Huaorani. Periodically, however, Kane is guilty of imposing his own North American cultural constructs on Huaorani thought. For example, when Kane is leaving the Quito bus station in a cab, he surmises, "Moi watched me as carefully as he would a monkey in the treetops." Read more here

Savages- by Joe Kane

Here are some other book reviews

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