The Piaroa of Sipapo, in northern Amazonas state, have fought against the negative impact of tourism on their territory for more than ten years. While tourism in indigenous communities is illegal without the community’s prior consent, agencies have brought tourists to fish and camp on lands used by the Piaroa. The Piaroa complained of loss of privacy, decreasing fish stocks, and desecration of their sacred sites.
In January 1996, a group of Piaroa women and children detained tourists entering community lands, confiscating fishing and camping equipment. Members of the Piaroa community then took their case to court, and in June the judge ruled in their favor, establishing, among other things, the following rules for tourism on Piaroa territory:
- No tourists are allowed on Piaroa lands without prior consent of the community Counsel of Elders.
- Tourist guides should be Piaroa and must operate with consent of Piaroa authorities.
- State and federal officials do not have the authority to grant tourism permits on Piaroa land.
While the above regulations were already established according to the Tourism Law, the ruling in this case not only confirmed the law, but also established an important precedent for future cases involving tourism on indigenous lands.
Source: PROVEA, Situacion de los Derechos Humanos en Venezuela, informe anual (PROVEA: Caracas, October 1995-September 1996), pp. 218-219