Writes: Lelis Rivera
August 9 was declared in 1993 as the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. In our country, this month has been declared the month of indigenous peoples. This commemorative date was born from the recognition that indigenous peoples have lived for centuries in a situation of exclusion and institutional helplessness, as well as the recognition of their tireless struggles for the defense of their territories and culture.
In this very important month I would like to reflect on this, telling you in a summarized way the struggle of the Matsés people - formerly called Mayoruna - that concluded with the titling of the largest collective territory in Peru and the Declaration of the Matsés National Reserve that last 26 August it turned 8 years of existence.
Since the Rio Declaration in 1992, things have not changed substantially in the world and what has been confirmed is that in some states more than others, indigenous people continue in their unwavering struggle for the legalization of their territories, in the face of the unstoppable onslaught of legal or illegal extractive activities, but equally harmful to the planet.
An example that demonstrates the persistent struggle of indigenous peoples to demand their territorial rights from the State in a scenario of relative legal stability, was the process of Recognition and Titling of the Matsés Native Community. This story begins in 1973, when the State created the Mayoruna Native Reserve of 344,687.50 ha., After the unfortunate incident that occurred during the first government of Belaunde, in which the Peruvian Air Force attacked Matsés settlements, caused by the interest of settlers. and loggers who wanted to deprive the Mayoruna people of their lands and resources, for which they sought with tricks the support of the State.
Twenty years later, in 1993, the PETT, the recently created Governing Body for titling, entered the Matsés territory, recognizing each settlement as a native community and calculating the extension of its territory based on bad titling practices (using the land-man relationship). , to grant no more than 30,000 ha. to the 9 annexes existing at that time. This attitude of a novice Governing Body, without institutional memory and with little will to adapt creatively to the reality of this people, was rejected by the Matsés people, who perceived it as a clear threat to the reduction of their territory.
It is then that at the request of the Matsés leaders, the Center for the Development of the Amazonian Indigenous (CEDIA) intervenes in this process, pointing out this nonsense to the authorities of the Regional Directorate of Agriculture (DRA) of Loreto. In response to this, they carry out, with the support of the Anthropologist Luis Calixto Méndez, a study that was presented to the DRA, motivating the annulment of the 9 Resolutions that recognized the 9 settlements and that recognize them as a single Matsés community. 722,000 ha were demarcated. for the titling of the community, according to the uses declared by the Matsés people, but a native community with this extension represented an absolutely unprecedented situation for the Peruvian State. After a process of negotiation between the representatives of the community and the DRA, in less than 6 months (June 1993) the Matsés Native Community was titled with 452,735 ha, being until now the largest native community in our country.
The Chief Matsés at that time, Juaquín Pëmën Necca, proposed to the Regional Director that the untitled territory be conserved as a Communal Reserve to protect the reproduction area of game animals on which they depend and have always depended, since their ancestors. CEDIA then undertakes a new commitment that began in 1994, after the official delivery of the property title of the Matsés Native Community, which consisted of working, together with them, to achieve the establishment of this Reserve. The Technical File of the Matsés Communal Reserve was concluded in 1996, within the framework of a strategic alliance with DRA Loreto. At the beginning of 1998, in a process supervised by the then INRENA of Loreto, this file was sent to Lima for its declaration.
After four years, in 2002, INRENA did not issue any opinion on the technical file of the Matsés Communal Reserve; However, thanks to a complaint issued by CEDIA to the Ombudsman's Office, he caused it to take action on the matter and for the file, along with others, to appear before the end of that year. The file had a positive technical report with 2 recommendations: an inspection visit and the need to increase biological information.
For the year 2003, CEDIA established an alliance with the Field Museum of Chicago - allied to raise the most important observation - and in October of that same year, an overflight was made to plan the Bilological and Rapid Social inventory, which was finally carried out in May 2004. A year later, all observations were raised; however, the area of the original proposal had decreased, as the southern end of the proposal was excluded to become part of what is now the Sierra del Divisor National Park. In 2006, CEDIA and the community had to initiate a lawsuit against INRENA for having granted two reforestation concessions committing almost 100,000 ha. from pristine forest within the Communal Reserve proposal to individuals; That same year, with the help of the press, these concessions, declared illegal, were canceled.
Later, in 2007, the State granted three oil concessions on the Matsés territory already titled and on the RC Matsés Proposal. Faced with this, the Community made the decision not to allow this activity in its territory and not in the area of the CR proposal. Then, in 2009, after the events that occurred in Bagua, the conditions of the relationship between the Government of Alan García and the indigenous peoples were at the worst level in history as a result of the alleged normative implementation of their so-called “Politics of the Dog in the Manger ”. It was in this context that the Minister of the Environment, Dr. Antonio Brack, who had followed the history of these processes full of obstacles, formally consulted through SERNAP and CEDIA to the Matsés Native Community, in June 2009, the possibility that the proposal for a Communal Reserve, change its category to a National Reserve in order to put this area of Pristine forests into definitive protection.
On July 13, 2009, the Community delivered Official Letter No. 018-2009-CNM to SERNANP, with the approval of the change of category after having been consulted in the 13 annexes of the community. With this official documentation, on August 26, 2009 DS 014-2009-MINAM was signed, officially establishing the Matsés National Reserve.
Today in the area, there is no oil lot, or other type of concessions superimposed on the Matsés National Reserve. In addition, the State, represented by SERNANP, and the Matsés Native Community have established an important strategic alliance through which they have just concluded an exemplary participatory process: updating their second Master Plan in which the protection of the Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact, collecting official information from the Ministry of Culture and the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East-ORPIO. Said report shows clear evidence of the presence of Indigenous people in isolation and initial contact who occupy shared territories between the Matsés Native Community and the Matsés National Reserve.
What have the country and the planet gained from this story? The Matsés have become, throughout this process, true guardians of their territory and have asserted their desire to manage it directly and indirectly, maintaining well-preserved primary forests on more than 930,000 ha. (Matsés Native Community and Matsés National Reserve), to free it from the threats of deforestation and / or environmental contamination. The Matsés National Reserve is a very important source of resources nowadays, not only for the Matsés, but also for other towns in their environment. Furthermore, the scope of its benefits goes much further, with important ecosystem services for the world's population, benefits that should be rewarded.
The heroic persistence of the struggle of the Matsés people to conserve their ancestral territories is just one of the many examples that we must recognize in the month of indigenous peoples and invites us to question ourselves about our contribution to the sustainability of our planet.