Cofán Chief Randy Borman -- Born to American parents in the oil town of Shell, Ecuador, in 1955, Randall Bruce Borman eventually rose to occupy the role of chief of the Cofán Nation. Randy's parents were missionaries who lived with the Cofán. They learned and spoke the language and adopted most trappings of the local lifestyle. Randy was raised almost entirely as a Cofán, although he did receive a modern Western education, including studies at Michigan State University and the Universidad Católica in Quito.
Seeing the destruction of the traditional Cofán lifestyle and ecosystem, Randy led a group of Cofán downriver and founded the village of Zabalo, on the banks of the Zabalo River. Since the establishment of this village, Randy and the Cofán Nation have fought hard to protect not only their heritage, customs, and language, but also to preserve the natural habitat that gives them sustenance.
Founded in 1977, the Cofán Community Ecotourism project is often considered the first true community-based tourism project in the world. Today the Cofán Nation, with only some 1,000 people, continues its struggle to survive.
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