As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in Amazonia, indigenous and local communities are some of the most vulnerable.

While we have had to leave our offices and field locations and pause many of our projects, we have strategically pivoted to address communities’ most pressing needs in the face of the current global health crisis.

This is how we have reshaped our current priorities in response to COVID-19

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ACT’s oral histories documentation initiative is designed to prevent the irretrievable loss of an invaluable source of historical and cultural knowledge; much like ACT’s flagship Shamans and Apprentices program, it seeks to help halt the loss of traditional knowledge of medicine and healing. As in that latter program, we are not solely interested in documentation…

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For indigenous and tribal cultures, increasing involvement in global culture and new technologies, such as mobile phone networks, has led to increasing dependence upon cash income. In Suriname, villages are emptying out as residents increasingly leave their communities for extended periods to seek wages in extractive industries such as logging and mining. Such activities are…

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Along the Saramacca River in central Suriname live the Matawai people. They are descendants of Africans who escaped slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries by fleeing into the jungles and fighting for their freedom. In the rainforest, the survival of the Matawai has always depended on an intimate knowledge of their territories. Place-based stories…

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At Ruby For Good 2018, a team of programmers in the Ruby language worked to develop the open-source and offline-compatible Terrastories application, designed for remote communities to map their place-based storytelling traditions. ACT will be using this application for oral histories projects with the Matawai Maroons in Suriname and other indigenous communities elsewhere in the Amazon.

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Oral histories

Indigenous storytelling is a powerful tool for preserving biocultural diversity, says Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, an environmental researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Having heard stories in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Kenya and Madagascar, he has now proposed that storytelling could transform how conservationists work with native peoples. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) embodies this philosophy. ACT partners with South American indigenous communities to preserve rainforests and traditional culture.

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