Traditional Peoples

The wisdom and culture of traditional peoples are threatened constantly and need to be preserved. Through our Parnter Network, CASA can support projects of diverse traditional peoples in South America, both in the protection of their rights in the face of great threats, as in strengthening the economic and cultural autonomy of their communities.  Learn about some of the supported projects:


Promoting meetings among those who know how to preserve what is most valuable

The Kisêdjê Indigenous Association (AIK) received support in 2006 to work on the maintenance of food security through planting traditional varieties of souari nut, mangaba (Hancornia speciosa), genipap, and annatto. Winti Suyá, the Association’s representative, recounts proudly: “the souari nut trees are already this high” (with his hands at head level). The Kisêdjê are geographically placed as a nucleus of resistance to the model of regional occupation in the areas adjacent to the Xingu Indigenous Park. Their village is close to cattle-raising farms and large soybean cultivations. This Indigenous people face the challenge of securing sustainability for current and future generations, seeking to reinforce and improve their traditional subsistence practices. Part of the work is to establish dialogue with neighbors about the conservation of rivers, ciliary forests, and forest fragments.

The presence of the partner organization the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA) in the region enabled the 2007 historical encounter between AIK and the Estrela da Paz Agroecological Association, also supported by the CASA Fund in 2006, to foster agroforestry in the Brasil Novo settlement. Back then, Indigenous people and farmers expressed concern over the rapid deforestation, but also demonstrated knowledge about recovering ciliary forests and introducing agroforestry. Both associations presented results and knowledge acquired in practice: agroforestry systems in production (native fruits, cassava flour, brown sugar, molasses), as well as ciliary forests and degraded areas in advanced stage of recovery. The work of these groups can be characterized as “sophisticated.” It combines manual work with traditional techniques and new environmental technologies.

Defending the Peruvian Amazonia

Oil drilling in the Peruvian Amazonia was followed by degradation and pollution because of oil spills during transportation – which brought extensive environmental damages. However, located in this region are not just oil and forest, but also people willing to protect their territory and prevent the expansion of the environmental disaster that would forever harm their culture and traditional way of life.

Peruvian Indigenous communities already face serious social problems: precarious access to quality bilingual education, and health issues because of their high vulnerability to diseases. Despite this, they voiced their protest when time came to defend their rights.

The Casa Fund supported a project of the Asociación Cocama para el Desarrollo y Conservación San Pablo de Tipishca (ACODECOSPAT) to defend this Indigenous people’s territories. The organization represents 57 communities from the Marañón River Lower Basin, as well as from the Urituyacu River area. These communities are located in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (PSNR), declared a protected area in 1982.The reserve is characterized by its high biodiversity, but the communities are also close to oil fields where drilling occurs since 1970.

ACODECOSPAT’s objective is to defend the rights of the Indigenous Kukamas, to value traditional culture, to search for alternatives to the economic, environmental, and political problems, and to secure the conservation of natural resources for the protection of social rights.





Developing legal frameworks for the future

Since its creation, the mission of the Institute for the Legal Defense of the Environment and Sustainable Development (IDLADS) has been to initiate public interest legal actions to strengthen Peru’s Indigenous and environmental institutions. This implies promoting accountability, access to public information, protection of fundamental rights, especially in the areas of the environment, Indigenous rights, and health.

Hence, IDLADS focused on constitutional processes, filing appeals, and judicial enforcement actions that would have an impact on the right to a healthy and balanced environment and the right to ethnic and cultural identity. The institute emphasized legal actions related to publicly sharing environmental impact assessments (EIA), the enforcement of regulations concerning the right to prior consultation, and adaptation of EIAs to new environmental rules. The CASA Fund support to IDLADS enhanced its institutional structure to cope with new demands.






The Central Ashaninka del Río Ene: a story the world must know

The Central Ashaninka del Río Ene (CARE) is an Indigenous organization that works to ensure the rights of the Ene River Valley communities, in Peru. CARE’s principles take into account what “to live well” means for the Ashaninka people. Among these principles is “to always live safely and in peace in our territory.” Thus, these families express to the state and companies wishing to invest in the area a clear wish that they respect the rights of traditional peoples, their right to have an inclusionary development, and their right to prior consultation and to their own territory.

In 2013, the CASA Fund supported the project “Vida Ene: Território seguro para las famílias Ashaninka del valle del Río Ene” (Life in Ene: a safe territory for the Ashaninka families in the Ene River Valley). Its purpose is to disseminate information on the socioenvironmental impacts of oil fields in Ashaninka communities in the Peruvian Amazonia, so they could know about and recognize the implications and impacts of oil drilling in Indigenous territories.

Actions supported by the CASA Fund to defend the culture and territories of Peru’s traditional peoples have made headlines in local newspapers, enabled better dialogue with the government, and facilitated the signing of agreements. The right to prior consultation has also become more respected and practiced.


Ruth Buendía – Ashaninka leader and winner of the Goldman Award. Ruth is a CASA Fund board member.