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Cuencas

           The equivalent of a regional sector in the lived Shipibo cosmology is a cuenca, a unit based on the flow of water into and around oxbow lakes and may be translated as a river basin. The world of water is called Jene Nete. In Shipibo cosmovision the different worlds are separate but interdependent - whatever happens on one level is reflected in the others. Humans cannot live without water, but they cannot live in water either. Water is its own world that helps form Non Nete. Cuencas are crucial features of Jene Nete in the Ucayali. As described in the section on the River, the Ucayali is one of the most dynamic rivers in the world, shape shifting, flooding, meandering and narrowing and widening, both on its own and as a result of human interventions. Fluid adaptation to the movements and flows has shaped the core of Shipibo lifeways centered around seven recognized cuencas and lakes: Utuqunia, Calleria, Pisqui, Tamaya, Caco, Abujao, Yarina and Imiria.

           Coshikox, the representative body of the Shipibo-Konibo-Xetebo People, argues for the use of these geographical subentities as proper delineations for regions of governance, as opposed to the administrative regions imposed by the state. This decolonial approach is considered a key aspect of self-determination. Combining indigenous and scientific spatial knowledge, the initiative aims to develop a hybrid strategy of representation that recognizes the uniqueness and importance of indigenous spatial conceptions. Some of the indigenous political organizing in the Peruvian Amazon based around different river basins began in the 60s and early 70s among which the first Shipibo Ani Tsinquiti or general assembly took place in 1971. As state laws such as the land reform of 1974 were promulgated (see Communities for more detail), other organizations increasingly conformed to the state-designated administrative regions. The formation in 1980 of the national organization AIDESEP (Interethnic Association Of The Peruvian Amazon) and its regional Federations compounded the problem. Although AIDESEP added an important united and radical new front through which to confront the state, its federation-based structure separated indigenous nations into different organizations based on state-designated regional borders. In other words, administrative delineations, rather than the lived world of Shipibo activity, has shaped the organization of contemporary Shipibo politics in relation to the state.

          Cuencas make both political as well as ecological sense (similarly see the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative). Indeed, a number of conservation areas have been formed by the state within cuencas, such as Imiria, confirming the ecological importance of these formations. However, the regional conservation areas are take-overs by the state and limit the activity, management strategies and control by indigenous communities over their territory and resources. A cuenca-based regional management model for self-determination would bolster the ecological potential of the Amazon river basins.

         The waterways themselves are considered to be the work and habitat of the mighty Ronin, the great anaconda water snake, which lies coiled at the bottom of every lake and basin. If the lake is polluted or not taken care of in other ways, Ronin leaves and the lake will dry up. In the “Cosmovision Politica” developed by Coshikox, cuencas (and sacred sites) are thus considered koiranti jake, habitats of care and protection.

 

Sources:

• Abizaid, Christian. 2005. An Anthropogenic Meander Cutoff along the Ucayali River, Peruvian Amazon. The Geographical Review. 95 (1): 122-135

HISTORY OF AIDESEP, trans. Forest Peoples Programme. https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/partner/asociacion-interetnica-de-desarrollo-de-la-selva-peruana-aidesep

• Coshikox. 2020. Documento de Trabajo: “Aportes desde la cosmovisión indígena al proceso de autogobierno Shipibo Konibo Xetebo” (Lener Guimaraes Vásquez, Eli Sánchez Rodríguez, Susy Diaz Gonzales, Richard Soria Gonzales, Policarpo Sánchez Rodríguez)

• Unicef Report. 2012. Shipibo. Territorio, historia y cosmovisión. Investigación aplicada a la EIB