Testimonial of Toribio Aguinda, former President of the Cofán Federation, of Cofán-Dureno
Before, most of the Amazon was considered “empty.” The government promoted settlement of these lands, and gave settlers incentives to come here to farm. Along with Texaco came settlers and missionaries.
Our lands are surrounded by settlers now. The Cofánes are not able to cross the river because it’s not our land anymore. If we cross the river, it would be considered trespassing into the settlers’ territory.
Although we consider those lands our ancestral territory, we can’t get it back. When oil company built the highway, some indigenous people left their territory because they didn’t want to live next to a highway, and that was how they lost their lands.
The contamination is in the water. People in this community don’t drink water from the Aguarico river because it contains oil; we drink water from the spring we still bathing the river, but we get sick a lot; we get a lot of skin rashes.
There’s only one oil well in Cofán territory, but most of the pollution comes from the Aguarico River and the Pisorie river that has oil wells near its headwaters, and those rivers are permanently contaminated with oil spills. On the shoreline, a black line of crude marks the rocks.