Supporting the Siekopai - Part 3

Ripple Effects

In March 2022, Vicki and Rebecca Tough from BCC travelled to Ecuador and together we visited the community of Siekoya Remolino so that they could meet the young people from the Sëra Foundation.

During our stay, we participated in an ayahuasca ceremony led by Robinson in the ceremonial hut that the young people had built together. We walked to a giant ceibo, the Siekopai’s most sacred tree, which was the biggest tree that any of us had ever seen. During one memorable day, Vicki gave the Siekopai their first taste of tree climbing with ropes and carabiners (not surprisingly, they were already experts at scrambling up trees with no equipment!)

Following our visit, the Siekopai and I were absolutely thrilled when BCC announced that they would be supporting the Sëra Foundation for the second year in a row! BCC 2022 will raise funds to help the community diversify their sustainable sources of income and work towards food sovereignty. 

For this, we are turning to the plants and trees in the Siekopai territory. After participating in a distillation workshop at the Pambiliño Forest School, we are looking into obtaining our own equipment to distil essential oils from medicinal plants.

This is an incredibly exciting project, as the Siekopai have uses for over 1000 plants. We hope to use some of these to create a range of natural products.

We are also looking to use the fruit from the morete tree, a native palm, to generate income and improve food security. Morete fruit can be used to make a wide variety of products such as jam and cooking oil but, while it grows abundantly in the Siekopai territory, it is difficult to harvest, as the trees are tall and don’t have branches.

BCC are planning to visit Siekoya Remolino again next year to help with the morete harvest and train the Siekopai to use professional climbing equipment so that they can safely harvest their own fruit in the future. We are so excited about this!

Just as exciting as the ongoing relationship with BCC is the flourishing brotherhood between the Siekopai and the Sarayaku.

In July 2022, the Sarayaku held a Summit of Native Peoples, a meeting of indigenous groups from various countries to discuss the safeguarding of ancestral territories. A delegation of four young people from Siekoya Remolino were invited to attend the event, among them Joffre, who had been so heartbroken at being unable to visit Sarayaku on the tour in January. 

A month later, a delegation of ten people from Sarayaku, including their Vice President, attended the Siekopai’s most important annual festival in the community of Siekoya Remolino. During their visit, a meeting was held to discuss strategies for the defence of territory. The Siekopai presented the Sarayaku Vice President with a ceremonial spear to represent the newfound unity between their peoples. 

Inspired by the wayusa ceremony in Sarayaku, the young Siekopai have started holding pre-dawn medicinal plant ceremonies with their community’s elders and children. Drinking yokó and mañapë in this way is an ancestral Siekopai tradition that was dying out until it was re-established following the tour.

One person in particular has been inspired by the new relationship with the Sarayaku. Antonio is the husband of Lili, one of the founding members of the Sëra Foundation. While Lili is Siekopai, Antonio is Kichwa, the same nationality as the Sarayaku. Unlike the Sarayaku, Antonio’s community has lost its traditions, largely due to the impacts of the oil industry. When Lili arrived home following the tour in January and told her husband about her experiences in Sarayaku and how they maintain their way of life, he was so moved that he had a traditional Kichwa garment made for himself. When the Sarayaku invited the Siekopai to attend the summit of indigenous peoples, Antonio asked if he could be part of the delegation. At the summit, each guest was presented with a book about ancestral Kichwa traditions. Antonio was so moved by his visit to Sarayaku that he returned to his community to give a talk at their general assembly, about everything they had lost since the arrival of the oil companies and the importance of reviving their way of life. He presented the book to his community’s president, who received it with much interest. I love Antonio’s story, as it shows that the ripples from the tour are still being felt in wonderful and unexpected ways.

In the area of education, since visiting the Pambiliño Forest School, the Siekopai have rearranged the school classroom to include various areas for different activities, rather than just having a whiteboard at the front. The Sëra Foundation has organised training workshops for the young people who will be involved in the transformation of their school. They have created educational materials in their language, Paai koka, for a workshop with the children called My Little Theatre, which they will run in October.

The Sëra Foundation has organised training workshops for the young people who will be involved in the transformation of their school. They have created educational materials in their language, Paai koka, for a workshop with the children called My Little Theatre, which they will run in October.

Our collaboration with BCC has made the world of difference for the young people of the Sëra Foundation and their struggle to protect the forest.

The young Siekopai and I are eternally grateful, especially to Vicki and Rebecca Tough, for their ongoing support.

In the words of Jimmy: “Big Canopy Campout has helped us so much! They have given us so much strength. They have supported us with this really important tour. They have opened a really big door for us! We are so grateful to them. From this territory, from this ancient Siekopai territory, from the descendants of great shamans, from jaguars, from all the spirits that we have in this land, we send them strength so that they can keep doing this beautiful work.”

We are so excited to see what the next chapter brings.

Author Beth Pitts

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