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  • Nemonte Nenquimo holds the Waorani people's written demands to stop oil extraction in their territory, Feb., 2020, Puyo, Ecuador.

    Nemonte Nenquimo holds the Waorani people's written demands to stop oil extraction in their territory, Feb., 2020, Puyo, Ecuador. | Photo: Twitter/ @riyozel

Published 12 October 2020
Opinion

On October 12, on the day of interculturality in Ecuador, she reminds the world of the problems that Amazonian indigenous peoples face due to capitalist greed.

In 2019, Nemonte Nenquimo, the president of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani People of Ecuador (Conconawep), gained international visibility when she got the Ecuadorian justice to prohibit oil exploitation in a jungle within the Waorani territory.

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A year later, on the day in which Ecuador celebrates interculturality, she sent a letter to the rulers of the world warning them about what capitalist greed does to natural ecosystems.

“The Amazon rainforest is my home. I am writing you this letter because the fires are raging still. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat,” said the 35-year-old indigenous leader whom the U.S. magazine Time considers one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2020.

“As Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love - our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth - and it's time that you listened to us,” she added.

Her message, which appeared published in English in The Guardian, was originally delivered in Wao-terero, the language of the Waorani, an Indigenous people with a population of 4,800 persons who live in the provinces of Pastaza, Napo, and Orellana.

Although Ecuadorian laws recognize their property rights over some 800,000 hectares of Amazonian land, the State keeps the property right over the subsoil's natural resources, a legal definition that has allowed intensive oil exploitation since 1970.

“If I don't protect the forest, they will destroy it... What we defend benefits not only the Waorani people. The forest provides the world with clean air,” Nenquimo recalled.

“They come to destroy our life and pollute the water. They destroy everything we have, including our own language,” added a woman who hopes that her five-year-old daughter can live in a “green forest full of animals, ancient medicines, joy, and freedom.”

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