Trinkets and Beads

Film. By Christopher Walker. 1996. 52 minutes.
This documentary reveals the funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling story of the battle waged by indigenous people to preserve their way of life in the Amazon, in the face of international capitalism and colonialism.
Time Periods: 20th Century
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Native American, World History/Global Studies

Huaorani children enjoying a meal. The history and activism of their Amazonian tribe is featured in the film, Trinkets & Beads. Source: Kate Walker.

After twenty years of devastating pollution produced by oil companies in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, a new kind of oil company — Dallas based MAXUS — promises to be the first company to protect the rainforest, and respect the people who live there.

TRINKETS & BEADS tells the story of how MAXUS set out to convince the Huaorani — a strong, independent tribe in the Amazon — to allow drilling on their land. It is a story that starts in 1957 with the Huaorani massacre of five American missionaries, moving through the evangelization efforts of Rachel Saint, to the pollution of Huaorani lands by Texaco and Shell, and then the manipulation of Huaorani leaders by MAXUS.

Now the Huaorani leader, Moi, is trying to unite the tribe in opposition to MAXUS. “It’s not just about exploiting oil,” says Moi, “it’s about who controls the rainforest. . . it’s everyone’s concern because this is the heart of the world. . .”

Filmed over two years, TRINKETS & BEADS reveals the funny, heartbreaking and thrilling story of the battle waged by indigenous people to preserve their way of life. The story of how the Huaorani are attempting to survive the Petroleum Age on their own terms exposes hidden consequences of our relentless drive to “develop” the world.

[Description from the distributor.]


  • Best Documentary, 1998 Paris International Environmental Film Festival
  • 1998 Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
  • Best Cultural Survival Film, 1998 Telluride Mountainfilm Festival
  • Special Mention, 1997 Panorama of Ethnographic Film (Paris)
  • 1997 International Festival of Ethnographic Film (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Gold Apple, 1997 National Educational Media Network

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