Deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon is a tropical rainforest named the Yasuni, where there lives a tribe of hunter gatherers called the Huaoranis. Yasuni National park is arguably the most biodiverse place on earth with almost 700 endemic plant species, a world record of 150 amphibian species, along with 382 fish species, 117 bat species, and over 600 bird species. The Yasuni is also home to about 1.7 billion barrels of oil, drilled by Ecuador’s national oil company Petroecuador, Chinese companies, and American oil companies. After the Hoaranis were contacted for the first time in the 1950’s they have been battling against the drilling of oil in their sacred land. Oil companies have been flooding the Amazon in the last couple decades, mostly on boats along the Napo river, but new roads are being built connecting oil drilling spots to the city of Napo, and this is a terrible change for the Huaorani. New roads have been causing oil spills and conflict with native tribes, there has been multiple casualties on both sides and road building continues to be blocked by natives. The Huaorani are composed of about 4,000 inhabitants and were uncontacted by any form of civilization until the 1950’s, this beautiful tribe continues to hold its culture, language, customs, music, and activities despite their knowledge of the outside world. The typical life of a Huaorani would include hunting, farming, cooking, making goods like jewelry, potery, and instruments. But with their culture, comes happiness. They spend day after day with each other trying to survive, climbing trees, playing games in the river, traveling and exploring the infinite flora and fauna, taking care of their pet parrots, toucans, monkeys, and so much more. They are some of the most incredible people, surviving in a place with countless poisonous animals and top of the food chain predators, with nothing but themselves and the rainforest. The lives of these men, women, and children are threatened everyday by oil companies. American filmmaker and biologist Ryan Killackey has done a wonderful job capturing the culture of the Huaorani and the struggles that oil companies have caused them in his documentary “Yasuni Man.” Released in 2016, this movie has reached thousands of people, spreading knowledge about an issue that is poorly known but vastly important to the lives of millions of plants, animals, and humans.
by David Halberstadt