• Indigenous peoples in Ecuador

    Indigenous peoples in Ecuador

    Ecuador’s indigenous population numbers some 1.1 million peoples composed by 14 indigenous nationalities. Ecuador voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has ratified ILO Convention 169.


Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador 

The Indigenous population in Ecuador accounts for approximately 1.1 million people. Ecuador voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and has ratified ILO Convention 169. However, the Indigenous population does not have full guarantees of civil, political, cultural, and territorial rights, and are still facing a number of serious challenges, and there aren't any specific public policies in place to prevent and neutralise the risk of disappearance of Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador 

The current population of Ecuador is 17,475,570 inhabitants (National Institute of Statistics and Census INEC, August 2020), and there are 14 Indigenous nationalities totalling nearly 1,100,000 inhabitants, grouped into a number of local, regional and national organisations. 

24.1% of the Indigenous population live in the Amazon, divided into 10 nationalities. Of the Andean Kichwa population, 7.3% live in the Southern Mountains and 8.3% in the Coastal region and on the Galapagos Islands. 60.3% of the Andean Kichwa live in six provinces of the Central-Northern Sierra; and the remaining 8.3% live in the Coastal region and the Galapagos Islands.

The Shuar, who form a nationality of more than 100,000 people, have a strong presence in three provinces of the Amazonian Centre-South, where they account for between 8%and 79% of the total population. The rest are spread in small groups across the country.

There are different nationalities with very little populations that are in a highly vulnerable situation. In the Amazon, the A’i Cofán with 1,485 inhabitants, the Shiwiar with 1,198 inhabitants, the Siekopai with 689 inhabitants, the Siona with 611 inhabitants, and the Sapara with 559 inhabitants. On the coast, we can find the Épera with 546 inhabitants and the Manta with 311 inhabitants.

Main challenges for Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples

The public policies ensuring automatic or full guarantees of Indigenous rights in Ecuador, particularly civil and political, cultural and territorial, generally have not improved.

A key problem for the Waorani peoples revolves around the state’s persistent promotion of the exploitation of oil on their territory known as the Waorani Reserve and the Yasuní National Park. There is also an aggressive presence of large-scale mining on the Shuar territory.

Four events directly affected the living conditions and economic and social rights of Ecuador’s Indigenous Peoples and nationalities in 2020: the aftermath of the great popular protest of October 2019; the unleashing of the COVID-19 pandemic; the rupture of the main oil pipeline and subsequent oil spill; and the political dispute surrounding the 2021 presidential and congressional elections.

Potential progress for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador 

A presidential call for a referendum to be held in February 2018 aimed to ensure the support of the Indigenous movement and environmental groups by including questions on banning extractive activities, for example, metal mining in ecologically fragile areas, and on limiting oil exploitation in Block 43 of the Yasun National Park: 67.5 percent voted in favor of increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares.

The colonial face of environmental conservationism in Ecuador


Throughout history, colonialism has taken many forms. First, it manifested in religious missionaries then rubber companies, and, finally, in oil companies. Today, under the guise of their so-called green agendas, environmental NGOs continue the oppressive legacy of their predecessors. In this case, the aim of their self-proclaimed green capital is to appropriate our ancestral territories in order to sell carbon credits. In this scheme, the commodification of the Amazon’s forests has become a new attempt to divide Indigenous organizations. Faced with this new threat, one viable solution is to bet on the self-determination of the communitarian society of the Sumak Kawsay.

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Ecuador: Siekopai siege, dispossession and resistance


From the first contact with the Western world, the Siekopai have had to resist and fight for their territories and lives. The Amazonian people are affected by the expansion of the oil frontier, the monoculture of African palm, the invasion of settlers, forced displacements, and the contamination of their food sources. These people, who suffered division through the borders created by the States of Peru and Ecuador, now fight against extractivists in a Justice system and a State that does not guarantee their rights to their ancestral territory.

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Indigenous Justice in Ecuador


The 2008 Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador establishes Ecuador as a plurinational and intercultural country. One of the most important areas of progress has been that of recognizing Indigenous justice systems to resolve conflicts in their own territories when they affect basic principles such as ama llulla, ama killa, ama shwa and ranti ranti. Taking their own customs, law and socio-economic situation into consideration, sanctions other than imprisonment are imposed. Nevertheless, while the two justice systems should be hierarchically equal, the ordinary justice system in practice limits the powers of the Indigenous authorities while at the same time depriving more than 600 Indigenous people of their freedom.

Indigenous Assembly. Photo: API

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The Indigenous World 2023: Ecuador

According to February 2022 data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), Ecuador's current population stands at 18,232,933. There are 14 Indigenous nationalities in the country totalling more than one million people, most of which are grouped into a number of organizations at the national, regional and local level.

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Nemo Andi: "We have been speaking the truth about all that is happening in the Amazon, the jungle and the Ecuadorian coast"

The head of the Women and Health of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) participated in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. As a member of a confederation that brings together 11 nationalities and 23 organizations of the Amazon region, the Waorani leader explains that this instrument allows Indigenous Peoples to make their reality and the abuses they suffer known.

Photo: ONU Mujeres

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Ecuador: National Mobilization suspended and an uncertain dialogue is established


The Act for Peace marked a truce between the Government and the Indigenous organizations that promoted the National Strike that paralyzed the whole country. However, the political environment has not calmed down and society is waiting for President Lasso to comply with the 10 agreed demands. After reducing the price of gasoline and diesel, the Ecuadorian people expect a moratorium on financial debts, food at a fair price, job creation and investment in health. The waiting time is running out and the Indigenous peoples will not return to dialogue if the Government does not comply with what has been agreed.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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