“We’re going to prove that a future without the oil company is possible”

Chumpi and the Waterfall (TeleAndes) was filmed in the Achuar community of Chicherta in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, the last community on the Huasaga River before the border with Ecuador. This is a headwater area, where the forest is full of animals and the rivers teem with fish. Daily life is usually peaceful and calm.

Chumpi, with his father Secha and his grandfather Irar, make a trip to a sacred waterfall where both adults had received a vision as young men. Achuar lands, including this waterfall, are under threat from oil drilling. The Achuar believe oil drilling would contaminate its pure waters and the Arutam spirits which inhabit it would leave, and future generations would lose the power of their visions forever.

The Achuar

Around 16,000 indigenous Achuar live in small villages along the rivers and in the headwaters of the Pastaza, Corrientes, and Morona river basins on both sides of the Peru–Ecuador border. In this remote and biodiverse area of tropical rainforest the rivers and forests provide the Achuar with water for drinking and bathing, fish, animals, wild fruits, insects, mushrooms to eat and all the materials they need to build and thatch their large oval houses and to make the canoes, baskets, stools, ceramic bowls, bags, feather crowns, musical instruments and all the other items they need and use on a daily basis.

They also have large gardens where they grow many different agricultural crops including plants for eating, making drinks, painting and adorning their bodies, making household utensils, medicines, poisons and some with special powers that help you dream, communicate with the spirits, see your future or bewitch and seduce a desired lover. Amongst all the species the Achuar grow, wayus, manioc and tobacco are three crucial to nurturing the Achuar mind, body and spirit.

“Wikia achuar aintsuitgai”

"I am an Achuar person"

For many years these Achuar communities have dreamt of introducing themselves, their way of life and the beauty of their ancestral lands to the rest of the country and the world. For the Achuar, a dream is not simply a passing, nocturnal illusion without relation to one’s waking life. On the contrary, dreams are gateways allowing communication with the spirits of their ancestors, who come to visit and talk to the living, giving them advice and a vision of their future so that they can tread a clear path in life.

The vision which the Achuar share is to protect their ancestral lands and leave them healthy and intact to their children and grandchildren. Although very few city dwellers have heard about them, the Achuar know about life in the cities, and their own lives are far from being cut off from the pressures of the world economy, and its impacts upon the environment. The Peruvian State has categorised their lands as open for petroleum exploration, however in doing so it has not taken into account the vision which the Achuar share and which they have received through dreams from their ancestors.

The family shares quiet and intimate moments as they drink this tea sat around the fire, and parents take advantage of this time and the power of the wayus to give advice to their children and tell them the stories of the past. This daily ritual has led outsiders to refer to the Achuar as the people of wayus.


Both boys and girls undertake a special ritual around the age of puberty to ask for a vision to guide their lives. It is a ritual undertaken alone, and is a test of bravery.

The child leaves the village early, fasting from dawn and walking into the forest singing or whistling special tunes to call the spirits close and ask them for a good vision. They walk for several hours until they reach a water source, where they build a small lean-to. Then they clear a straight path going away from the lean-to in both directions, and finally bathe in the stream or pool.

As night falls they drink a bowl of tobacco juice, previously prepared by one of the elders of the community. The elderly man or woman prepares the tobacco by chewing it, as this releases its power and the visions they had in their childhood may be passed on to the next generation through contact with their saliva.

The tobacco provokes vivid dreams; dreams with the spirits of the Achuar ancestors known as Arutam. They say that the Arutam come along the recently cleared path so it is important that not a single stick is left, upon which it could stumble. The Arutam appear in their dreams as a powerful or dangerous animal, such as a jaguar, an anaconda, an alligator or an eagle. The child must not be scared, but must welcome the spirit, who will then show them the vision of their future they have been seeking.

The Arutam gives different visions depending upon the form it takes when it appears, it could be that of a long life, power to lead, to be a fearless warrior, bravery, a love for travel or a large, united, healthy and hardworking family. Of all the places in the forest, waterfalls are the best places to go to search for a vision as this is where the Arutam reside, and as such they are sacred and treated with special respect.


The songs which call the Arutam and ask for their power to be passed on are called anent. Anent are charms with the power to attract a desired thing or being and ensure that events work out favourably, working in the physical and emotional worlds. There are anent for searching for a vision, anent to ensure the growth of plants, anent for curing the sick, anent to attract game animals and anent to make someone fall in love or return home if missed.

Anent can be sung aloud softly, whistled or simply recited in silence. Children learn anent from their parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents and so these songs, which allow the Achuar to communicate with all the beings that surround them, pass from generation to generation.


The Pastaza basin has been occupied by Achuar for many generations. The old gardens, rivers and streams, waterfalls and footpaths throughout their landscape serve to remind them of their ancestors and how they transformed the forest. The landscape is scattered with stories of wars, witchcraft accusations, meetings with forest spirits, large parties and ritual ceremonies.

The land and its resources are fundamental to the Achuar’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. Their territory is the source of their identity and provides the link between the past and the present. Without their territory the Achuar could not continue as a people, as they would not simply be missing food and shelter, but all the resources, material and immaterial which create Achuar minds, bodies and spirits, and sustain their social and cultural activities and memory.

The Peruvian State has recognised the Achuar’s occupation of their land with Native Community titles. However these titles only cover a third of the ancestral lands they use daily for hunting, collecting forest products, during visits to other communities and on their journeys in search of visions from the arutam.

Oil and Development

Everything that is precious to the Achuar is under imminent threat from oil drilling and exploration in their ancestral territory by Canadian company Talisman Energy.

The Achuar have made clear their opposition to this concession and have not allowed the companies to start any activities on their land. Despite this the Peruvian State still does not recognise the Achuar’s decision and continues to offer this, and other new, neighbouring blocks, to interested companies.

The creation of Block 64 is part of an ongoing State project to open up the Amazon basin to petrol exploitation. In 2007, 70% of the Peruvian Amazon was overlapped with petrol blocks, in many cases without the consultation or consent of the local indigenous population, whose lives are likely to be changed irrevocably by such operations. These actions contravene ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, of which Peru is a signatory.

The Achuar of the Pastaza’s resistance to petrol developments comes from their desire to protect the environment on which their lifestyle and identities depend. They are determined not allow a repetition of the tragedy which has befallen the land of their relatives, the Achuar of the river Corrientes, where the rivers and forests have been polluted and the local ecosystem destroyed by almost forty years of petrol operations. Given that their existence depends entirely upon the water, flora and fauna, any damage to these will inevitably have serious implications on their own wellbeing.

They are particularly worried about the health of their children. Clinical tests carried out by the Ministry of Health have shown that most of the children living in the petrol affected areas of Corrientes have dangerously high concentrations of lead in their blood.

VIDEO Chumpi & the Waterfall

Responses to "Chumpi & the Waterfall (MOVIE)"

  1. Karean says:

    Thank you for your diligence will ride the vibration and save our Mother
    Earth for we all want the same for our grandchildren...Especially clean water.

  2. Wonderful film! Thank you for this. Chumpi is so charming and bright. I send positive thoughts to him and his family and tribe.

  3. The use of G.P.S. to map tribal land requires support so that the technology is extended as widely as possible (given practicalities). There is an urgent need I feel. As well as material support (financial etc.) How can it be made possible for the Archuar and other Indigenous tribes to know
    I thank them for recording their lives on video
    I grow most of my food organically because I care for my place in the natural world.
    I wish to encourage them to hold on to their traditional ways because they have much to teach the world about how to behave with Mother Earth.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What a great movie!

  5. Unknown says:

    yay chumpi!! stay strong! we love you!!! :D

  6. Gillian Edwards says:

    Such a beautiful film. Let them live in peace. What right do we have to change their lifestyle? Will we be able to watch this again in a few years and find them still living how they choose to live?

  7. Anonymous says:

    A wonderful film

  8. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful, inspiring and 100% positive - these people and culture are vital - must be supported. Chumpi is natural star!

  9. Karry Kofr says:

    I pray that someday we may all live in the same peace and respect of our world as the Archuar do. We have so much to learn from them. We have been so spoiled in the time and age. I pray they are protected. I pray that other indeginous people who have lost thier homes and lands may someday be given the chance to return to more peaceful times and to the old ways. I pray that the rest of us can learn to do the same, and not be caught up in this world of stuff.
    I pray we all let these people live in this natural environment without fear of loosing the only life they know. It is a beautiful life they lead.
    Great share for all of us.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful movie. It is so refreshing that this natural way of living and honoring all life on Earth still exists. I add my heartfelt prayers that it will always be so on their land for generations to come. We can learn so much from them. Great sharing of your wisdom with the world.
    Grandmother Dona

  11. Anonymous says:

    this people are wise living from and giving back to nature is neccesary for humans i'd love to live this way so simple yet without all the hassles of life

  12. Ricky Za says:

    Anazing film, seriously so inspired, just watching these people make my day, they know very well how to respect our earth and live in harmony its just the most wonderful thing known to us.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It's so sad to know that one day they could be condemned by those oil companies. Thanks for this look into their brave lives.

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