Matses Projects


The goal of the Matsés Movement is the cultural survival of the Matsés people in a manner that is economically feasible and independent (i.e. sustainable). 


In order for the Matsés communities to preserve their culture and lands in a sustainable and independent manner, it is necessary for them to have certain resources, most importantly basic health services and education.   At present, disease epidemics jeopardizes the survival of the Matsés people.  In addition, education and knowledge of the outside world is necessary for them to be able to defend their lands and way of life.  Matsés society has avoided depravities such as alcohol abuse that have destroyed other indigenous cultures.  Furthermore, the Matsés have a strong work ethic and high moral values.  Given the chance to  help themselves, the Matsés people and their culture are capable of surviving in a changing world. 


Adopt an Indigenous School Program:


Adopt an Indigenous School ProgramOne of the keys to maintaining an indigenous culture is education.  In order to educate the Matses youth, it is necessary for them to have basic schools supplies such as notebooks, textbooks and pencils.  Our organization has recently launched a new Adopt an Indigenous School Program in order to provide basic school supplies to students and teachers.   With these school supplies, Matsés children can receive a basic education and learn how to read and write in both Spanish and their native language of Matsés.  To learn more about the Adopt an Indigenous School Program and how you can support this project, please visit Adopt an Indigenous School.



Medical Support:


Matses Medical SupportCurrently, two diseases are devastating the Matsés population.  Malaria and hepatitis have the potential to wipe out the Matsés communities and with them, their culture.   During recent years, some Matsés communities have had the majority of the population contract malaria.  Similarly, some indigenous communities in the Yavarí Valley have had mortality rates of 10% of their population per year due to hepatitis.  Both diseases are controllable - malaria with medications and hepatitis with vaccinations and clean water systems.  Like many other indigenous peoples, the Matsés have decreased resistance to many western diseases and normally minor afflictions, such as the common cold, can become life-threatening diseases.  


Clean Water Systems:


Matses Clean Water SystemsPrevention of hepatitis is relatively simple -  the installation of clean water systems (i.e. wells) can control this virus that has devastated numerous indigenous communities in the Yavarí Valley.  At present, none of the nineteen Matsés communities in Peru has a functioning well.  Instead, the Matsés are using surface rather than ground water for drinking.  With the high water table of the Amazon Rainforest, it is relatively easy and economical to install wells that provide clean water.  Our goal is to install clean water systems in all Matsés communities.  In addition, maintenance of the systems is important and requires the training and participation of the communities. 


Communal Handicrafts Workshop:


Matses ArrowsCurrently the Matsés people have no regular economic income and the main source of hard currency is selling meat and pelts from the animals they hunt.  Over-hunting has reduced collared peccary and tapir populations below sustainable levels.  An alternative to obtaining much needed hard currency by selling hunted game is selling handicrafts.  Ironically, the Matsés can sell the implements (e.g. bows and arrows) they are using to over hunt their lands in order to obtain sorely needed cash.  Selling handicrafts is sustainable in that it does not exhaust resources as can hunting.  Moreover, it maintains the material culture and traditions of the Matsés by giving them the economic incentive to produce their traditional handicrafts (bows, arrows, spears, basketry, and woven items).  Some Matsés communities  are losing the knowledge of how to produce these items,  and this project, properly implemented, may well result in a renaissance of Matsés art and craftsmanship.  


Cultural Education Program:


Matses Bilingual EducationThe President of our organization has written a book entitled, The Traditional Life of the Matsés.  In order to appeal to greater audience, the book is written in three languages - Matsés, Spanish, and English.  The main purpose of this book is teach the Matsés youth of the cultural traditions of the Matsés.  Currently, professors in the Matsés communities are using this book to teach the youth about traditional Matsés society in order to maintain their way of life.  The book is meant to complement and not take the place of the Matsés oral tradition of teaching youth about the ways of their ancestors.  It is important that Matsés children learn the Matsés language. 



Sustainable Agriculture Development:


Matses AgricultureThe Matsés no longer live a nomadic life as they once did moving their settlements every few years as they exhausted the resources of  the area.  At present with permanent settlements, it is necessary for them to change their agricultural practices to more sustainable systems.  Tropical soils are fragile and it takes much time for them to recover after exhausting their nutrients.  The Matsés need to develop new agriculture methods and crops to sustain productivity on their lands.  Successful innovative agricultural projects have been implemented in other indigenous communities (e.g. the cultivation of Aguaje palms [Mauritia flexuosa] and the reforestation of agricultural areas with fruit trees) and serve as models of sustainability. 


Aquaculture of Fishes:


Tribal AquacultureAquaculture, analogous to the sustainable agriculture of cultivated plants, involves the enhancement of fish populations to augment the natural supply.  Rearing fish under enhanced conditions allows a more consistent supply under the highly fluctuating water levels that occur in the Amazon.  Aquaculture will also prevent the over harvesting of endangered fish species, such as the paiche (Arapaima gigas), thus conserving their populations.  Traditionally, the Matsés have used toxic plant substances such as barbasco (Lonchocarpus spp.) and huaca (Solanaceae) to harvest fish.  Aquaculture represents a more sustainable method that will maintain a more consistent supply of fish.


Matsés Native Community:


Matses Communal ReserveAt present, the Matsés are seeking the expansion of the Matsés Native Community lands to include the areas directly adjoining the present Matsés titled lands.  The amplification of the Matses territory will guarantee the sustainability of the region and prevent destructive practices such as logging and the establishment of settlements by outsiders.  Moreover, it will provide watershed protection and permanent preservation of an important source area for fish and wildlife populations. 


For more information on how your can work with the Matsés Movement, please contact:

The Matsés Movement
Iquitos, Peru

Telephone: (+51) 965-000650

E-mail :


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