Written by Andrew E. Miller
A wave of sadness has surged forth from the Amazon rainforest, washing over many who have supported indigenous rights in Peru. Yesterday we learned that the long-time Achuar leader Jiyukam Lucas Irar Miik had drowned in the Pastaza River, as he returned to his home community of Puerto Rubina. As reported by his son, his boat hit a log and capsized as it traveled up-river deep in the night. Lucas was last seen sleeping on the journey.
The struggle of Peru’s Achuar indigenous people is an inspiration around the world. They have sent many multinational oil companies running from their territory. They model low-impact coexistence with their environment, reforesting some parts of the rainforest while keeping roads out. Recently, they launched a lawsuit demanding recognition of their ancestral territory. Lucas was central to all those efforts over the last 25 years.
Lucas’ 2012 Canada trip is emblematic of his leadership. He joined three other leaders on an advocacy delegation across the country, visiting Ottawa, Calgary, and the tarsands region of Alberta. In dozens of meetings and interviews, Lucas wasn’t always the main Achuar spokesperson, but his words held the weight of wisdom and integrity. The trip served as the capstone of a five-year international campaign against Talisman Energy’s planned oil operations in Achuar territory. In September of that year, the company announced they would be departing from the region.
Over the years, Lucas served in different leadership roles. He was one of the founders of FENAP, the main Achuar federation with which Amazon Watch works. He was elected as President of ORACH, one of two sub-federations under FENAP. Later, he was also President of COBNAEP, the Binational Coordinating Body of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador and Peru. Until yesterday, he was supporting the recently-elected FENAP leadership as a territorial coordinator for the Huasaga river basin.
Upon learning of his passing, numerous allies and friends took to social media to express their shock and sorrow. Here are excerpts of several of those homages:
And from Amazon Watch, we are sending a clear message to the Achuar that our long-term commitment to support the realization of their Life Plan is as strong as ever. We are deeply saddened to know we will never again be greeted by Lucas’ warm smile, but believe his example will inspire the new generation of Achuar leadership to continue in his footsteps.
(This article originally appeared on Amazon Watch. It has been reprinted here with permission.)