The Chinimp Tuna Station




In 1973, Manuel Chumapi arrived with his wife Nelva Shiguango and their three small children: Mario, Carlos and José to what is today the community Chico Copataza. They had moved from Puyopungo in the Pomona parish to setup their household the pristine jungle along the Copataza River. 


As the Ecuadorian government implemented a policy of colonizing land further into the Oriente the settlement of Sucre was founded. The colonist farmers saw the land where the Chumapi Shiguango family was living as empty land and were claiming it. As a response to this, Manuel Chumapi along with two friends, Gabriel Santi and Gustavo Shiguango and their respective spouses, took the initiative to legalize their lands for themselves and their children.


This led to the formation of a committee which then contacted the Shuar Federation (FICSH) in order to apply for membership.


FICSH in corporation with IERAC (former Ecuadorian Institute for Agrarian Reform and Colonization) helped legalize their lands, granting a global title in 1990. Manuel Chumapi was assigned 180 hectares (360 acres) between the Ilipe River in the North and the Community Nayum Entsa in the South. To the east the land is limited by that of Gabriel Santi and to the west by the Sucre community.


While legal land ownership has given a degree of security to the community of Chico Copataza, the community has undergone rapid changes during the last decades. In 2003 a gravel road was made to the community which has been renewed to a paved road in 2012. Since 2007 the community has electricity.


Bus service now enabling Puyo to be reached in less than two hours (formerly a three day journey) and the community now has a medical clinic as well as a small high school. These changes have greatly influenced life in the community. The range of possibilities for economic activity has vastly increased. Cattles has been introduced as well as the road allowed access for traders to extract valuable timber, and for industrial building materials to be obtained more easily. Bus access to the market in Puyo introduced the possibility of trading a variety of perishable crops such as green bananas, pineapples and other fruits from the gardens.


Access to markets and spending of money both alter lifestyles and attitudes as well as increased the pressure on the natural resources. Increasing population, income generation and efficient and sustainable use of natural resources are now key issues in the community.


Today 25 of their 180 hectares in Chinimp Tuna are used for subsistence and market crops such as yucca, plantain, sweet potatoes, yam, fibre palm, pineapples, corn, papaya and pasture. The remaining land is covered by pristine tropical rainforest.


The Chinimp Tuna Station is made up today of some of the many descendants of Manuel and Nelva. As Manuel is Shuar and Nelva is Kichwa, the family is trilingual, speaking Kichwa, Shuar and Spanish.


In 2012 the project legalised by the CODENPE (El Consejo de Desarollo de las Nacionalidades y Pueblos del Ecuador).


The Quichua


While there are seven different indigenous nationalities in Pastaza, Chico Copataza is predominantly Kichwa. The lowland Kichwa call themselves runa or Canelo-Kichwa in Pastaza. They speak a dialect of Kichwa called Runa Shimi, which is related to the somewhat different highland Quichua. The second language is Spanish. Due to the close location of the Shuar and Achuar, some also speak Shuar or Achuar.


There are about 60.000 to 100.000 Kichwa people living in the Ecuadorian lowlands, organized in 450 communities. The Kichwa in Pastaza live along the rivers Pastaza, Bobonaza, Curaray, Sarayacu, Villano, Corrientes, Conambo and Pindo Yacu. To the southwest and southeast the Llushin River and the Pastaza River sets the boundary towards the Shuar and Achuar territory. To the north their neighbors are the Waorani and to the east a limit is set by the Peruvian border. To the west the limit is the colonized areas by mestizo farmers, but there are also Kichwa people living in the urban areas in and around Puyo.


There are no exact numbers of the land held by the Kichwa. In 1992 they were granted 1.115.000 hectares, but it is estimated that at least an additional 1.569.000 ha also belongs to the Kichwa of Napo, Sucumbíos and Pastaza.


Traditionally the Kichwa lived in small kinship based groups called ayllus or muntun in fixed settlements called quiquín llacta. They lived from subsistence agriculture, hunting, fishing and recollection in the forests and rivers. The hunting often took place in so-called purina llactas, special and more primitive hunting settlements, further from the quiquín llacta. The political and spiritual organization of each muntun was controlled by a shaman or yachag who was the ritual and political leader. Today the family and ayllu still constitute the central part of social organization. The Kichwa practices monogamy. Traditionally marriages have been between Kichwa, but exogamous marriages with other nationalities such as Shuar and Achuar are increasingly accepted. 

When married, the wife should move to live with the family of her spouse and would be considered part of their family. In return the husband should work a period for his father in law. However, when Manuel wished to marry Nelva her father insisted that despite both Shuar and Kichwa tradition they must set up their household in her community.


The Kichwa have experienced a quick organizational process with the aim of defending their collective and territorial rights. The Kichwa of Pastaza are represented by OPIP (Organization of Indigenous People of Pastaza) which is a member of CONFENIAE (regional organization) and CONAIE (national movement).


Most Kichwa families still live from subsistence farming, hunting, fishing, gathering and selling or bartering these products. More recently activities such as cattle and ecotourism have come to play an important part of life. The chacras or gardens are the main source of food. The Kichwa cultivate a variety of species including plantain, sweet manioc, sweet potato, taro, white maize, squash, peanuts, sugar cane, coffee, cacao, bananas, pineapples, small onions, papaya and chonta palm. Traditionally the gardens are subject to many rituals drawing on the Kichwa cosmology which must be respected in order to assure a good output.


Hunting is another important aspect of subsistence. The hunter is subject to a series of restrictions and rituals to ensure the efficiency in the hunting. The Kichwa hunt a large variety of animals such as woolly and spider monkey, paca, agouti, capybara, squirrel, anteaters, armadillos, otters, peccaries, deer, lizards, toucans, parrots, turkeys and other birds. Hunting used to be an activity exclusively practiced with the pucuna or blowgun with poisoned curare arrows, but now the shotgun and rifle have been introduced by the mestizo society. The fishing is mainly done with spears, traps, using the poisonous barbasco root and the more recent introduction of fish hooks.  Dynamite has been used in recent years. At the Chinimp Tuna Station it has now been totally discontinued by the family- partly through the initiative of volunteers in drawing attention to not only the personal danger of injury (loss of fingers) but also the environmental degradation.


The Shuar


Until the 1960´s the Shuar people were known as the most warlike Indian tribe in South America due to their much feared tradition of making shrunken heads (tsantsas) of their enemies.


Traditionally the Shuar lived in small clusters of semi-nomadic households, living from subsistence farming, hunting and fishing. However, increased contact with missionaries and settlers from the highlands forced the Shuar to change their lifestyle to living in fixed settlements and organizing themselves in their common struggle for the land and the forest.


The life of the Shuar is strongly connected to their natural environment, as they consider life an integral part of nature, and dreams and omens are relied heavily upon to plan the future, even down to the following day. Supernatural beings, gods and the position of the stars and the moon control the circle of life and wild and cultivated products.


Arutam, the god who dwells in waterfalls (tuna) is the being who sends visions to Shuar men during the traditional process of initiation, which includes a long period of fasting and drinking maikua (halucigenic Datura spp.).


The wild is represented by spirits connected to the hunt and fishing like Etsa (the sun) and Nantu (the moon) and the cultivated lands are the place where Nunkui, the goddess of agriculture is present. Most Shuar still rely on subsistence faming, hunting, fishing and gathering of different fruits and insects. Shuar women are knowledgeable gardeners, having different sacred songs (anent) for the welfare of the cultivated plants and call on the help of Nunkui. The crops grown are mainly: plantain, sweet manioc, sweet potato, taro, white maize, squash, peanuts, sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, small onions, papaya and chonta palm.


Roles are generally highly gendered - while that the men hunt, fish, clear forest and cut wood while the women cultivate the land, cook, care for the children and animals, and make manioc beer (Nijiamanch). The manioc beer is central to Shuar life, as it is a dietary stable, a social tie, a work incentive, and a symbol of female productivity.


The Shuar Indians in the Ecuadorian Amazon today number approximately 120,000 persons spread among 668 communities, and they are among the best organized indigenous people of Ecuador.