Money, we can print it.  Land, we can’t create once it’s gone

Money, we can print it.  Land, we can’t create once it’s gone

We seem to have lost the wisdom of the indigenous people, which dictated that in any major decision, the first consideration was “How will this decision we’re making today affect our people in the future?” These days, decisions are made based on the bottom line- Jane Goodall

While Indigenous Peoples own, occupy, or use a small fraction of the world’s surface area, they safeguard nearly all of the world’s remaining biodiversity. An encouraging dialogue has begun to spread amongst wildlife scientists and ancient aboriginal societies.  A new generation of conservationists is flourishing between those that realize the land in need of protection owes its high biodiversity to the practices of the people living there, some of which for thousands of years.


Indigenous Peoples’ help protect our environment, fight climate change and build resistance to natural disaster, yet their rights aren’t always protected.  The challenge still remains to secure Indigenous Peoples’ basic rights and to ensure their inclusion in sustainable development.

The Quichua Indians (Kichwas), also known as Canelos Indians, were the first indigenous people of the Amazon to be something to Christianity on the part of the Catholic Church, through the Dominicans and Jesuits, who allowed colonization in their areas.  They were the first Amazonian aborigines incorporated into Western civilization.  Their culture is characterized by a perfect harmony of man with the nature that surrounds him. They conserve the systems of traditional agriculture, nutrition and medicine and artisan through sustainably utilizing the tropical resources.


Recent territory restrictions now plague the community, and economy is increasingly dependent on the external supply of mercantile goods. Many young people today in this area find themselves torn between two worlds.  Spanish, the mainstream language of government, big cities and better job prospects spoken between friends.  And Kichwa, the Indigenous language, full of culture and history.

Like many indigenous people, the Kichwa people have been long discriminated against.  Government policies have privileged Spanish speakers over Indigenous communities.  Many villages now have their young people leaving for work and better prospects in big cities.  The only way to protect their way of life, is by reclaiming traditions. Like the environment, the indigenous cultures are too in need of rescuing.

The Tamandua Eco Lodge is part of a large conservation initiative deep in the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador.  This also happens to be part of Kichwa territory.  Here luxury volunteer cabins sit on 125 hectares of protected rainforest. Kichwa natives look after the reserve and help with the release of thousands of rescued wildlife animals and volunteers arrive to lend a helping hand and experience the magic of the rainforest. Living here. Experiencing the Tranquility. Volunteers are struck with an eye-opening experience, far away from society, peering through glass cabins across the jungle as they wake in the morning.

There is no Wi-Fi, and only 2-3 electricity hours are provided in the evening.  Volunteers enjoy their nights amongst the nature, like the Kichwa natives. Cozying up in a hammock by candle-light, or singing around the fire, and peering for shooting stars.

Days are spent rising early for a hearty team breakfast, helping Kichwa natives with various building and renovation projects, building pathways, replanting, etc. Volunteers enjoy their mid-day lunch while observing the many species of wildlife around them.  Evenings are filled with culture! Each day volunteers step deeper into cultural practices of the Kichwa peoples. Visit local, magically places in the rainforest, learn how to cook with nature, make craftworks like colorful bracelets and pottery, learn local dances and hunting techniques like shooting a blowpipe.  The Kichwa life is always busy with activities and culture to learn from.

Volunteers walk away with an understanding that continuing the study of indigenous cultures allows us to reflect on the past, and to forge a stronger and more sustainable future. It is in locations like the Tamandua Eco Lodge, where Kichwa natives are successfully involved in modern-day conservation practices. And here we find that it truly is in preserving cultural diversity that biological diversity can be protected.

To learn more about how you can help in environmental conservation volunteering in South America, make sure to check out the South America Explorer program

“I want to learn all of the stories of my past to let the world know.” Yadira Aguinda, Bellavista

Community, Kichwa Speaker

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