Alex Kettering

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Heather Heckel

Degree Award Date

Spring 2006


History | Latin American History


After visiting Ecuador in January 2006, I recognized the implications of oil politics, the power struggles that accompany them, and the disastrous consequences they have had on the society and culture of both the indigenous and non-indigenous population of Ecuador. As a modem historian, an obligation exists to break the monopoly that the powerful have traditionally reserved within the realm of media, education and literature. In an effort to do just that, I have chosen to write about those who have traditionally lacked power and of whom we, in the North, have little awareness. A particularly heart-warming experience with the indigenous peoples of Ecuador acted as my personal impetus for testimony. In an interview with Delio, the village shaman of Ecuador's Siona community, a moment of unsettling prophecy touched me in a special way. When asked what his vision of the future was for the indigenous population of Ecuador, his face was instantly overcome with a look of despair as he humbly replied, "Life will be shorter for the indigenous people of Ecuador and its neighbors" (Interview, 1/15/06).

This paper analyzes how the indigenous people of Ecuador began to regain power in the realm of politics and the reasons why it became necessary for them to do so. By tracking the various activism campaigns of indigenous groups, this paper illuminates the complex struggles and negotiations for power between indigenous groups, governments, corporate interests particularly oil companies, and increasingly international actors. The project begins with a brief description of Ecuador's political, social and economic characteristics. Next, indigenous advocacy, supported often by international actors or context, is presented from the dawn of the oil era in the 1960s to the overthrow of President Mahaud in 2000. In the concluding analysis I consider the historical factors that inspired the indigenous movements, their impact upon Ecuador, and the current challenges that they face as they strive to maintain the gains they have achieved in the face of monumental pressures.