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The appeal of the Ashaninka People of the Amazon

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05 August 2018
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Benki Piyako of Ashaninka People, Amazon, at the United Nations Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Benki Piyako of Ashaninka People, Amazon, at the United Nations Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Statement presented at the UN in Geneva on the occasion of the 11th session of the EMRIP, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


Thank you members of the chair, honourable experts.

My name is Benki Piyako, and I speak here in the name of the Ashaninka people, self-represented by the organisation Apiwtxa.

The organisation Apiwtxa, created in 1993, aims to protect the cultural, environmental and territorial integrity of the Ashaninka people of the Amonia river, in the state of Acre, Brazil. Guardians of the Amazonian forest and of the Earth, we manage our food supplies and economy autonomously through the use of our traditional practices and the sustainability principles that they contain. Through education, health, and good practices based on our ancestral knowledge, we manage to maintain the balance of the ecosystem in which we live.

This balance is a consequence of our thousand-year-old history of living in the forest, connected to the spiritual world that represents the connection between men, the Earth and the Universe as the roots of our traditions.

In 1984, the Ashaninka people suffered a great massacre. Through unlawful operations seeking to seize precious wood and rare animal furs, the company Orleir Cameli destroyed 25% of the total 87.000 hectares of the Ashaninka land.

 The traditional Ashaninka song that Benki Piyako intoned at the EMRIP presidency table
The traditional Ashaninka song that Benki Piyako intoned at the EMRIP presidency table

This attack thus led to the loss of a part of our cultural heritage, and directly harmed the history of our people.

As a reaction, we started a struggle to claim our rights. In 1989 we decided to undertake actions to retrieve and recuperate our land and, with it, our traditional knowledge. Collectively, we started to reforest our territory, manage its fauna and care for its rivers.

In 1992, we were freed from the physically and morally damaging invasions of the timber operators thanks to the demarcation of the Ashaninka land. At this time, a legal proceeding was undertaken and favourable decisions were given by all the Courts.

However, this year, 2018, the Supreme Court invalidated all previous decisions to our disadvantage. In front of this injustice, we call upon the Supreme Court, wishing that they apply the laws protecting the rights of the indigenous people.

Our struggle led to the planting of more than 2 million trees for the recuperation of our land. But we need support to assert our rights. Through this declaration, we thus appeal to the United Nations and we recommend:


Benki Piyako interviewed by Rosalba Nattero for Shan Newspaper
Benki Piyako interviewed by Rosalba Nattero for Shan Newspaper

1) That the Expert Mechanism, under its newly established mandate, engages and assists us in establishing a dialogue between the Brazilian government and the Ashaninka people of the Amonia river which, in turn, could facilitate the creation of a good practice for many other tribes that encounter issues similar to ours. With the aim to put in effect the article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

2) Through this oral statement, we already inform the Brazilian government of our intent to seek assistance from the Expert Mechanism. We remain at the UN's disposition to cooperate with good faith and to provide all necessary information, and hope that the Brazilian government will do so as well, in order to resolve the current legal proceedings in utter transparency.


In the meantime, we recommend the government of Brazil to respect its international obligations established in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention 169. We ask that the ethic and values of the indigenous people also be respected.


Benki Piyako is member of Ashaninka People, Amazon, and delegate of the NGO Apiwtxa


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