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Due to the erosion of the Napo River, Painkenape will be relocated

In the first week of August 2021, the first of several phases of the total relocation of the Siekopai (Secoya) community of Painkenape was completed. In this phase, the community’s school was moved from its original location on the banks of the Napo River in the Peruvian Amazon, near Nuevo Rocafuerte in Orellana, Ecuador, to its new location. Over the course of several weeks, the relocation of the houses where the residents of Painkenape live will continue.

The relocation involved men, women, and young people from Painkenape. Photo: Manuel Pallares.

The new settlement is less than 1 km from the confluence of the Yasuní River into the Napo River, on the Peruvian side. At the confluence lies the international boundary between Ecuador and Peru. The Siekopai refer to the Yasuní as «Suniná,» which means «Peanut River.»

In the first phase, the relocation of the school, which serves to educate the children of the community, was completed. The school was dismantled and reassembled in the new settlement, where the houses of the inhabitants will subsequently be located. The water well pipes were also removed to be relocated in the new community.

Photo: Manuel Pallares

Painkenape will be relocated from its original site to a new location at a higher point to avoid the flooding that has consistently affected this community in recent months.

Reasons for the relocation

As is publicly known, since the beginning of 2020 when the old San Rafael waterfall, in the upper Coca River, collapsed, an aggressive process of regressive erosion or «hungry waters» began, causing significant erosion along the banks of the Napo River, including in distant areas like Painkenape.

According to geologists and experts on the subject, this led to a total transformation of the morphology of the Coca River, which flows into the Napo. This has caused regressive erosion to affect many communities located along the banks of the Napo River, as the river water floods its banks.

Each year, floods are becoming more frequent and larger. There is a noticeable increase in the amount of sediment carried by the river, causing its course to change more frequently and putting at risk communities settled along the banks of the Napo River.

These phenomena are also attributed to climate change, which also affects the Amazon rainforest.

New settlement in Siekopai ancestral territory

The new Painkenape is a safe place and corresponds to an ancient settlement of populations with the same origin as the current Siekopai. During the relocation, several archaeological vestiges of ceramics with typical designs of their culture were found.

In a map published in London in 1811, the ancient names of Siekopai populations, as well as rivers, lagoons, and strategic points in the Amazon between Ecuador and Peru, can be observed.

The Unquizia lagoon is highlighted in red. In the Painkoká language of the Siekopai, Unqu is an ant that inhabits trees near lagoons. Ziaia means river. It is the current Jatuncocha lagoon, located on the Yasuní River, within the Yasuní National Park (YNP).

The red star indicates the location of the New Painkenape, near the mouth of the Yasuní into the Napo. Painkenape means «stone man,» according to a story related to the presence of the Portuguese. Downstream is San Pedro, which also means «stone man» because it comes from Latin. San Pedro is the current Cabo Pantoja, Peru.

Originally, in San Pedro, there was Rocafuerte, an Ecuadorian town that, due to wars with Peru, had to be relocated to its current location: Nuevo Rocafuerte, very close to the Yasuní River and the border with Peru.

In this 1811 map, several important points of the Siekopai nationality can be observed, including their new settlement.

This has been the ancestral territory of the Siekopai, who were displaced from their territory due to armed conflicts between both countries. That’s why in Nuevo Painkenape, the Siekopai are returning to occupy their ancestral territory. Evidence of this is the abundance of ancient ceramics with typical designs of the Siekopai people.

The installation of the new water well is fundamental to ensure the provision of vital water for the inhabitants of Nuevo Painkenape. 

Raíz Ecuador Foundation works for the Siekopai.

In this case, our work supports the relocation of the school, the water well, and the electricity generation of the new settlement.

Raíz has been working with the Siekopai and their reunification for over 20 years, marking the milestone of their reunification after more than 40 years of separation due to the conflict between countries. We maintain the Project for the Reunification and Territorial Consolidation of the Siekopai People, with which we have contributed to the recovery of ancestral possession of their territory.

We also support education in the communities of Painkenape and Mañoko, located in Lagartococha, thanks to the Beyond Lagartococha project.

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Statement

Fundación Raíz is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), working with indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, Montubio, and Mestizo groups across Ecuador.

Our projects support various communities: Sionas, Siekopai, Kofan, Chachi, Kechwa, Waorani and Shuar, covering six linguistic families.

Our CAEMBA housing initiative focuses on the Afro-Ecuadorian and Montubio populations in Esmeraldas, addressing challenges of poverty and high crime rates. We commit to equitable treatment, opportunities for all, and the elimination of barriers to participation.

By valuing every voice and fostering community resilience, we aim to create a more inclusive, equitable society.

Our leadership is committed to DEI principles, ensuring our efforts reflect the diversity of the communities we serve and contribute to sustainable development and social justice.


Fundación Raíz está dedicada a la diversidad, equidad e inclusión (DEI), trabajando con grupos indígenas, afroecuatorianos, montubios y mestizos en todo Ecuador.

Nuestros proyectos apoyan a varias comunidades, Sionas, Siekopai, Kofan, Chachi, Kechwa, Waorani y Shuar, cubriendo seis familias lingüísticas. Nuestra iniciativa de vivienda CAEMBA se centra en las poblaciones afroecuatorianas y montubias en Esmeraldas, abordando desafíos de pobreza y altas tasas de criminalidad.

Nos comprometemos a un trato equitativo, oportunidades para todos y la eliminación de barreras para la participación. Valorando cada voz y fomentando la resiliencia comunitaria, aspiramos a crear una sociedad más inclusiva y equitativa.

Nuestro liderazgo está comprometido con los principios de DEI, asegurando que nuestros esfuerzos reflejen la diversidad de las comunidades que servimos y contribuyan al desarrollo sostenible y la justicia social.