The Siekopai people were displaced from their ancestral territory, known as Lagarto Cocha in the 1940s due to a border conflict between Peru and Ecuador which divided their people for over sixty years. The Siekopai in Ecuador now live a day’s travel upstream, along the Aguarico river, an area with a very different ecosystem and surrounded on all sides by the social and environmental impacts of oil operations and industrial agriculture. Only in the last couple of decades has the border region been largely demilitarised and the Siekopai been allowed back to visit.
This area, full of flooded forests and black water lakes is where the Siekopai people originated, and many myths and stories are located there. Recently they have started a project to reconnect the younger generations with their ancestral heartland, travelling back to Lagarto Cocha a few times a year to hunt, fish, practice sacred ceremonies and collect some of the special resources found there which are central to their culture. Part of this project involved making a map of the river Lagarto, the many lakes which fringe it, the sites of old villages, ceremonial sites and the paths taken by their ancestors, and they approached Digital Democracy in 2015 to help them think through their methodology.
Dd worked closely with the Siekopai territory team of Alianza Ceibo, with community members, and staff from Amazon Frontlines.
The Dd team trained a group of ten young Siekopai to use Mapeo to trace the outlines of the many lakes, using an offline satellite image as a guide. The Siekopai team then visited the area with their elders and recorded the names and stories of each lake and important place, and added this information to the map. They also included GPS points taken at the sites of old villages, which they identified through oral histories, and ancestral paths connecting river basins and villages.
The use of technology has given the young people involved a concrete role in this process of reconnection, helping them engage with and make theirs an area they had only ever heard about in stories from their grandparents. The process was accompanied by the territory and communications teams of Alianza Ceibo and Amazon Frontlines, who supported them to make videos explaining the history behind each site. Digital Democracy worked with these teams to produce an interactive map, in Siekopai, Spanish and English, on which Lagarto Cocha, and their stories and testimonies can be explored.