April 19, 2016

My name is Erik Levin; I’m currently writing a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago’s joint program in the Departments of Anthropology and Linguistics. For much of the past nine years, I have lived in an indigenous village in the Peruvian Amazon amongst the Amawaka people. The Amawakas’ land is located deep in the old-growth rain forest on top of huge reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Many people believe that this would help the Amawaka, and in principle, they might even be right. In practice, however, that is not what is happening. Until about three years ago, the Amawaka did not have a lot of contact with outsiders. Now their lands’ riches are attracting outsiders who are wreaking havoc upon their traditional ways of life, and on the ecosystems which the Amawaka depend upon for their daily food and water requirements.

Outsiders’ industrial activities continue to pollute the Inuya River along which the Amawaka live. Industrial pollution causes health problems for the Amawaka, both directly (from carcinogens), and indirectly (from protein deficiencies that are the results of the river’s decreased fish stocks).

To help the Amawaka maintain access to potable water, a Davis Grant for Peace is funding the construction of a well in one of their villages. The Amawaka approved this at a community meeting in March. Right now, engineers in Peru are designing the well. We will start construction in June, 2016, and finish in August 2016. Ideally, the well will help overall community health.

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