Photo of a house in Wampis territory by David Rothschild.
The Wampis Nation, in the northern Peruvian Amazon along the border with Ecuador, manage a territory of more than 1.3 million hectares of Amazon rainforest — an area larger than Jamaica. Their culture is rich in history and spirituality, with stories about their people and traditional lands going back thousands of years, entangled in the ecosystems and landscapes of their territory. In 2015, the Wampis established their Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, the first in Peru to encompass a contiguous territory of the customary lands of an Indigenous people, as a way to exert their right to self-determination and to defend their territory against resource extraction and colonization. This example is unique in the Peruvian Amazon as most Indigenous land titles are for individual communities, not entire peoples, as is common in Peru’s neighboring countries.
Wampis governance is based on a Statute that lays out a vision in all areas of life including religion, spirituality, education, language, and recovery of ancestral places. It establishes a “moral council” for elders with a proven track record who have sought visions in the sacred waterfalls. Crafted through general assemblies and guided by Wampis elders, the Statute requires that any activity that could affect Wampis territory must secure the free, prior, and informed consent of the Wampis, and no Wampis community can take a unilateral decision that affects others. In accordance with the Statute, in March 2021 the Wampis elected new leaders who are now responsible for implementing the vision of the Wampis Nation.
Early in their leadership term the new Wampis Pamuk and Vice-Pamuk (traditional leaders) participated in the November 2021 United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow (COP26). While in attendance, they presented the recently completed Wampis climate strategy, which documents the Wampis territorial government contribution to the Paris Agreement, and ambitions looking forward. The scientific study found that the 1,327,760-hectare Wampis territory makes a significant contribution, including the following conservative estimates:
- An extremely low annual deforestation rate of 0.053%
- Store (stock) of more than 145 million tons of carbon, equal to 522 million tons of CO₂ equivalent
- Annually removing or absorbing 57 million metric tons of CO₂ equivalents
- By 2030 reducing CO₂ emissions an estimated 1,756 million metric tons of CO₂ equivalents
While in Glasgow at a Nia Tero event, the Wampis leaders sat down with the renowned 3-time Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas Friedman, and shared some of the story of the Wampis people and their contributions to a climate solution. In his New York Times summary of takeaways from the climate summit, Friedman noted that the Wampis live in harmony with their territory, which “absorbs 57 million tons of CO₂ from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and stores millions of tons of carbon by keeping those trees standing.” The Wampis told Friedman, “We have been taking care of this for the world, and our future generations, and we need to make sure that it is there forever.”
The Wampis example of self-determination and self-implementation of a territorial government is inspiring other Indigenous peoples in northern Peru to begin their own processes toward establishing territorial governments. Most recently, in December 2021, the Wampis neighbors and traditional allies, the Awajun, officially formed their Autonomous Territorial Government of the Awajun.
Nia Tero is proud to partner with and support the Wampis territorial government.
For more about the Wampis, please see nacionwampis.com.