Matses Tribe

Peru sells mineral rights of Matsés lands to oil company

Oil drilling and oil spills could destroy Matsés culture


Unknown to most of the Matses people, who believe that they have control over the land that they were given title to in 1998, the Peruvian government's Peru Petro has sold the mineral rights of the Matses lands to Pacific Stratus Energy.  Recently, Pacific Stratus signed a contract that gives them the right to explore for oil within the Matses lands and drill oil wells. The consequences of drilling for oil on the Matses lands could jeopardize the survival of the Matses people who are primarily hunters and rely on their land for all their food and resources.  Furthermore, the con-sequences of oil workers invading the Matsés lands and drilling for oil could set the stage for confron-tations  between oil companies and the Matsés people who have  historically defended their lands.   

Pacific Stratus Map

Click here to send a letter to Pacific Stratus
Send a letter to Pacific Stratus Energy warning them of the high cost of their exploring for oil and drilling oil wells within the Matses lands.  The reality is that the Matsés people have a strong history of defending their territory, and any attempt by Pacific Stratus Energy to explore for oil and drill oil wells will be resisted by these indigenous Amazonians. Therefore, in the interest of their shareholders, Pacific Stratus Energy should reconsider the high security costs and adverse publicity involved in developing and drilling oil wells within the Matsés lands. 

Sample Letter


istorically, the Matsés people have only had two ways of dealing with outsiders, killing them or integrating them into their tribe.  The Matses tribe has been defending their land against outsiders for centuries and only relatively recently in 1969, finally made peace with the outside world.  The spectacle of uninvited oil workers entering their territory and destroying their lands sets the stage for the Matses to once again protect their land from invaders.  Pacific Stratus seems to be uninformed as to the history of the Matsés people and how they will react to outsiders invading their territory. 

Pacific Stratus Energy is a scruffy Canadian firm, which has a few small oil concessions in Colombia, and is losing money.  Despite record oil prices, Pacific Stratus managed to lose over 22 million dollars in the first six months of 2007.  With a balance sheet in the red, it is difficult to understand how Peru Petro qualified them to receive oil concessions in Peru.  Nonetheless Peru Petro, S.A., the Peruvian corporation created by the Peruvian government to supervise oil exploration and development in Peru, awarded blocks 135, 137, and 138 to Pacific Stratus instead of SK Corporation or Reliance Industries Limited who also bidded on block 138.   

The potential environmental damage to the fragile Amazonian ecosystem could destroy the traditional lifestyle of the Matses people who obtain all of their resources from the Amazon Rainforest.  Being primarily hunters, the Matsés people rely on the forest for virtually all their food and material resources.  The destruction of the natural environment would destroy their traditional way of life.  The health consequences of the environmental pollution caused by oil drilling could also be devasting to the Matses people.  In other areas of the Amazon where oil companies have drilled wells, the health of the local people has been damaged by exposure to toxic oil by-products.  Not surprisingly, some indigenous Amazonian tribes have actually sued oil companies, and the recent lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum by the Achuar people for putting their health at risk and damaging their habitat and is an example. 

In addition to the environmental damage and health consequences, the social impact of oil companies on these indigenous Amazonians could prove destructive.  A case in point being the invasion of the traditional territories of the Huaorani people in Ecuador by "petroleros" (spanish for oil company employees).  Many of the Huaorani accepted jobs by the oil companies resulting in a loss of their cultural traditions and rampant alcoholism.  At present the Matses are still a very traditional people, living without electricity and shun alcohol use.  The pollution of their material culture with western artifacts and alcohol could destroy this unique traditional Amazonian culture. 

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