How do you begin to condense centuries of experience, knowledge, and resistance into a twenty minute speech to reach an audience of thousands of strangers and potential allies?
The leadership of Ceibo Alliance faced this challenge when they were invited to give a keynote speech at the annual Bioneers conference in California in October. To answer this question, they turned to their elders for guidance. “My grandfather said to speak about our life and our struggle in our territories,” said Hernán Payaguaje, Ceibo Alliance Executive Director and member of the Secoya nation. He said, ‘Tell people that we are still here’.”
“My elders told me to bring our women’s songs with me and to sing,” said Nemonte Nenquimo, founding member of Ceibo Alliance and a member of the Waorani nation. “If they hear our songs they will understand who we are as people.”
In their speech, Ceibo Alliance leaders spoke about the realities of indigenous life in the Amazon in the 21st Century and the threats their people and territories face on a daily basis, the role indigenous peoples must play in the fight to protect the Amazon and our planet’s climate, and how they are responding by working with Amazon Frontlines and the communities of the Siona, Secoya, Kofán and Waorani nations to build a movement for indigenous resistance and solutions—a movement that is getting results.
After their speech was finished, the outpouring of heartfelt support from people in the audience was powerful. “It was beautiful for us to feel like people really heard our message and that they are with us in our struggle,” said Alicia Salazar, Ceibo Alliance’s General Coordinator.
“My grandfather told me to tell people that even though we live far away, in a place very different from California, we are all connected. That’s what we did,” said Hernán.
We’re excited to share this video of their powerful speech with you.