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Claims of Indigenous Extinction in Amazon Region Proven False

In yet another fabrication put forth to mislead the public, the American trial lawyers behind the Chevron case in Ecuador and their activist NGO partners continue to claim that the indigenous tribes in the former consortium region are “near extinct.” However, this claim could not be any further from the truth.

Dr. Robert Wasserstrom, a former professor of Anthropology and Public Health at Columbia University and a Chevron expert, stated in a 2008 report that:

“Beginning around 1950, growth rates among native groups in Ecuador have followed the same trends as indigenous populations throughout the Amazon Basin – in areas with oil production, mining and timber extraction as well as in undeveloped regions.”

His entire report is available here. Additional information about the history of the indigenous tribes is available here.

In fact, Ecuadorian government census statistics and all peer-reviewed published data agree that the population of the five indigenous groups identified by the plaintiffs has either increased in numbers or remained stable since Texaco began operations in Ecuador.

The indigenous population experienced a massive decline, long before oil was discovered in Ecuador. Yet the plaintiffs’ attorneys conceal the well documented fact that this drop began when Europeans arrived in the Oriente hundreds of years ago, bringing foreign diseases with them. So much so that the Cofán nearly did go extinct in 1923 (approximately 40 years before Texaco arrived) when a measles outbreak killed over half of the remaining population, leaving only a few hundred alive.

Demographic studies presented by Dr. Eduardo Bedoya (a Ph.D. in Anthropology from New York University who has consulted for the ILO, CARE-Perú, WINROCK Corporation, the World Bank, and the IUCN) indicate that the indigenous groups (especially the Cofán) – are far from “facing extinction” as has been claimed. In reality, the indigenous population has more than tripled from about 300 inhabitants in 1960 to 1,044 in the official government of Ecuador census of 2001.  This chart further demonstrates the population growth.

The “decimation” of indigenous population blamed on Texaco by the plaintiffs and aligned NGOs couldn’t be further from the truth. The government statistics and independent anthropological studies all draw the same conclusion: The population of the five indigenous groups in the region has increased for over sixty years.

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