The Awá people are an indigenous group native to the mountainous regions of northern Ecuador and southern Colombia. Theirs is the closest indigenous territory to the threatened Reserva Los Cedros. Since their official recognition by the Ecuadorian government in the 1980s, the Awá have been outspoken and politically engaged. Their position on the Colombian border, however, has put them in harm’s way: in 2009, more than two dozen Awá, including women and children, were massacred in the conflict between FARC and the Colombian army in the southern Colombian province of Nariño. And most recently, an oil spill in Colombian Awá territory destroyed an entire community.
In 2017, the Awá saw 70% of their lands included in mining concessions. Though many of these concessions have been ‘unofficially’ relinquished, mining companies are still visiting and trying to influence smaller villages, and prospecting has begun in the bordering protected forest of Cerro Golondrinas Reserve, within which a number of major rivers are born. This protected forest is run collectively by the surrounding communities, and the majority of the Reserve is currently under mining concession. Though the President of the community has expressed pro-mining interests, the Awá community has publicly voiced that they are against mining.
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