Indigenous peoples in Ecuador

Ecuador’s total population numbers some 16,189,044 inhabitants, and includes 14 nationalities accounting for around 1,100,000 people, all joined together in a series of local, regional and national organisations.

60.3% of the Andean Kichwa live in six provinces in the Central-North Mountains; 24.1% live in the Amazon region and belong to ten nationalities; 7.3% live in the Southern Mountains; and the remaining 8.3% live in the Coastal region and the Galapagos Islands. 78.5% still live in rural areas and 21.5% in urban areas.

A number of nationalities have very low population numbers and are in a highly vulnerable situation: in the Amazon the:

  • A'i Cofán (1,485 inhabitants)
  • Shiwiar (1,198)
  • Siekopai (689)
  • Siona (611)
  • Sápara (559)

And in the costal areas, the:

  • Epera (546)
  • Manta (311) 


Article 1 of the 2008 Constitution of the Republic recognises the country as a “…constitutional state of law and social justice, democratic, sovereign, independent, unitary, intercultural, multinational and secular”.

Over the last five years, the country has undergone a series of political and institutional reforms.

At the same time, however, enforcing and guaranteeing the collective rights recognised in the Constitution has become a challenge to the process, and a permanent point of disagreement between the government, headed by the economist Rafael Correa, and the indigenous social organisations.

The government’s economic action has been largely marked by an opening up of the extractive industries - oil, copper and gold - to foreign investment, either of Chinese or Belarussian origin, or from other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile or Argentina.

This has resulted in risk to and impacts on the territorial and cultural integrity of various indigenous peoples, and an uncertainty created around the true validity of the broad collective rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Ecuador ratified ILO Convention 169 in 1998 and voted in favour of the adoption of the UN Declaration in the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. 

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Ecuador to learn about major developments and events during 2015.