The Amazonian rain forest of southeastern Peru, in the Tambopata district. The nearest city is Puerto Maldonado.
The Ese’eja are an Amazonian tribe that were formerly nomadic in the region. Most Ese’eja now live in permanent settlements, so that their interaction with the resources of the rain forest is evolving.
Ese’eja, the local language, is spoken primarily by elders of the tribe. Most younger people speak Spanish.
Like many nomadic tribal societies, the Ese’eja have a remarkable understanding of the place on the earth that they inhabit. The knowledge of the local plants and their uses is passed from generation to generation, so that even young children are schooled in the community’s knowledge. Near the lodge where our guests stay there is a Shaman – a medical and spiritual doctor, who presents a seminar on local plants to our guests.
Because of their nomadic roots, there are few centrally-organized villages in the region. The Ese’eja are in the process of developing a community center, including a school, health clinic, meeting place, and handicraft workshop. As one might expect from people who live as one with the land, many of their handicrafts use native material: animal carvings from balsa wood, jewelry made of seeds, and clothing and handbags made from tree bark.
Our partner in the region is Rainforest Expeditions, a local company that combines tourism with environmental education and research. Rainforest Expeditions operates several lodges in the area, including Posada Amazonas, a 30-room lodge that is owned by the indigenous Ese’eja and is located on the tribe’s land.
We have supported and worked with the Ese’eja people on community-based tourism projects for over a decade. University groups led by Crooked Trails have studied the partnerships already in place and made recommendations for how to improve the existing projects.
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