Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Ecuador : Quichua

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2010
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Ecuador : Quichua, 2010, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


They are a diverse group inhabiting both the highland and lowland regions. Since Quichua has historically served as the lingua franca among indigenous communities, speakers of this language represent a variety of different ethnic groups.

Historical context

The Quichua are arguably the single largest indigenous group in the world. They are known for their important contributions to architecture and elaborate roads from the pre-columbine period. In Ecuador alone, there are at least 15 sub-groups of the Quichua. With a unique tradition of making textiles, starting in the 1920s the Otavalo Quichua created a model of indigenous capitalism that has afforded them a better socio-economic status than other minority groups in Ecuador.

Current issues

Although the Quichua have enjoyed some political power through the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, sectors of this population continue to face serious socio-economic challenges. In the highlands, Quichua farmers have been compelled by their worsening economic situation to earn their livelihood as day labourers in commercial agriculture or as seasonal migrant workers. Similarly, lowland Quichua continue to suffer from high rates of poverty, little access to education and adequate health services. The growth of the eco-tourism industry has benefited the Quichua community to some extent. However, international companies without indigenous representation continue to dominate the tourism industry.

In 2004, representing 18 Quichua organizations of the Napo region, the Network of Quichuan Nationalities of the Amazon opposed a series of policy talks aimed at increasing oil production. In May of 2006 Quichuan organizations were instrumental in a series of protests and road blocks leading to President Palacio's ordering of Oxy to leave Ecuador. Oxy subsequently sued the Ecuadorian government and won in July, 2006.

A very important legal case for indigenous people's rights regarding Quichua is the Case of the Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku V. Ecuador. In 1996 Ecuador signed a 20 years contract with an Argentinean oil company, Compañia General de Combustibles (CGC), which had been granted governmental permission to search for oil on Sarayaku ancestral lands without informing or consulting the community - that from 1992 also detained a title on that territory - before or after the stipulation of the contract. In 2002 the project started and in 2004 CGC planted mines throughout the Sarayaku Peoples' traditional lands destroying part of the forest and putting at risk indigenous peoples' lives.

In 2010 the case was brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which in 2012 came out with its decision. According to the Court's judgment, Ecuador violated the right to free, prior and informed consultation (expressly recognized in the ILO Convention No. 169 of which Ecuador is a party) as well as the right to communal property and cultural identity and the right to life and physical integrity.

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