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Member of the Siekopaai Nationality
This nationality calls itself "SIEKOPAAI", which means multicolored or colorful people, due to its colorful adornments with bird feathers, jaguar fangs and different jungle seeds to differentiate its identity from other cultures. The first explorers called them "encabellados" (long-haired) because of their shoulder-length hair.
They are very knowledgeable about medicinal plants and nature lovers. They use Yagé as a form of spiritual healing, prevention and prediction of all negative or positive factors that could occur to mankind.
Most of the population of the area knows them erroneously with the name of Secoya, which is a name imposed by the colonizers by a river called Siekoya. However, the Secoyas represent only a part of the Siekopaai nationality.
Population and Language
According to the population census conducted by the nationality itself in 2016, the population of the Siekopaai Nationality is made up of 217 families, corresponding to 672 inhabitants.
The original language of the Siekopaai is "Paaikoka", which means "language of the people" and belongs to the Western Tukano language complex. As a second language they speak Spanish.
The Siekopaai are an ancestral Amazonian binational people of Ecuador and Peru. Originally they occupied a vast territorial extension between the rivers Napo, Aguarico and Putumayo, but due to the effect of the colonization and intervention of the oil companies these territories have been progressively reduced. For this reason, small settlements were formed such as Sëokë'ya or Puerto Bolívar (today occupied by the Siona nationality), very close to the lagoons of Cuyabeno. Later, the Siekopaai moved from that area and formed the village of San Pablo de Katëtsiaya, a name chosen by the leaders José Cecilio Piaguaje and Celestino Piaguaje under the influence of the evangelical religion.
In order to defend their territorial and cultural rights, this nationality has been organized jointly with the Siona nationality, forming the Organización Indígena Siona-Secoya del Ecuador - OISSE. Subsequently, the Siona Nationality detached from this organization in order to strengthen and preserve their culture autonomously, and the Siekopaai have formed the Secoya Indigenous Organization of Ecuador - OISE.
After Ecuador's constitutional change in 2008, in which indigenous peoples are officially recognized as nationalities and peoples of Ecuador, OISE changed its name to NASIEPAAI, which means Siekopaai Nationality.
The communities belonging to the Siekopaai Nationality in the province of Sucumbíos have started the practice of ecotourism as a strategic tool to safeguard their cultural and natural heritage. Since its territory is linked to a protected area of great national and international importance, such as the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve, this particularity makes it a favorable scenario for ecotourism.
However, carrying out this activity in an area of high biodiversity requires a proper planning process to ensure the sustainability not only of tourism practice, but also of the fragile ecosystems found within the area, which are exploited as tourist resources.
In addition to ecotourism, other economic income comes from handicrafts, agriculture and small animal breeding.
Traditionally, the houses of the Siekopaai Nationality were built with natural materials such as pambil, guadua and leaves of toquilla straw, yellow palm or conambo. Nowadays, due to the relationship with the western world, the houses have been changed to mixed construction with wood, zinc and cement. They are usually built one or two metres from the ground, and have rooms, a living room and a kitchen inside the house. In order to maintain tradition, other buildings have been built for wood or stove kitchens near their mixed dwellings.