Letter from Indigenous Women of the Western Amazon - Amazon Frontlines

by Amazon Frontlines

/ March 2020

A Letter From Kofan, Siekopai, Siona, and Waorani women of our indigenous partner organization, Ceibo Alliance. Click here to read the original Spanish letter entitled “We Are Resistance of The Forest, Love & Peace”.

With love and peace, we, women from four indigenous nations of the Western Amazon, are fighting against the threats to our forest.

The Amazon gives life to our planet. And for us, as indigenous peoples, it is our home. Yet every day, the threats grow bigger. Oil companies, loggers, cattle ranchers, and armed groups endanger our lives and destroy our territories, and governments continue to violate our rights. They want to exploit our territories, displace us, and exterminate us. They do not want us to live in peace and harmony. They continue to contaminate our Mother Earth, our rivers, our animals, and our bodies. And as the forest is destroyed, our cultures and our ancestral knowledge are disappearing even faster – and forever.

As women, we were deeply saddened and pained to witness the fires that devastated millions of acres of primary rainforest in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay last year, as a result of the invasions of cattle ranchers and large agribusinesses on indigenous lands. Despite the distance between our homes, we know that we are all united in this fight to protect our forest. The Amazon is not divided in parts, it is one whole being. And we know that what happened with the fires could also happen here, if the trees continue to be cut down, and if extractive companies continue to enter our territories. Our forest could dry up and become a desert.

 

Building the Path Forward

Waorani women celebrate a major legal victory against big oil, Ecuadorian Amazon

Over the past few years, we have achieved great victories here in the Ecuadorian Amazon, which have strengthened us and given us hope in our fight against extractivism and for the cultural survival of our peoples. At the headwaters of the Aguarico River in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, the Kofan community of Sinangoe won a landmark victory against gold mining and for the rights of nature. The courts recognized that the government had violated the Kofan’s right to prior consultation and that mining threatened their survival and the rivers. And more recently, Waorani communities from the south-central Ecuadorian Amazon won a historic battle against big oil. Women, grandmothers, and girls were at the forefront of these unprecedented legal victories, alongside men, demanding that the State respect indigenous peoples’ rights and decisions over their territories. And we triumphed!

But we know that the threats to our lives and our territories will not diminish. As women, we are growing stronger. We are standing up for our rights and putting our bodies on the line to defend our families and our territories. We are active in our communities’ land patrols (or “guardias”), climbing tremendous mountains, detecting new threats, confronting invaders, and protecting life. Women defenders are setting a courageous example for our girls and for the generations to come. They bravely take on this work, in addition to all the responsibilities they have as a woman in their community and in the face of ongoing gender discrimination. These women strengthen our fight for equality against a patriarchal system: because this fight includes everyone.

Women from the Siona guardia (land patrol), Putumayo, Ecuador-Colombia border

 

Weaving Our Dreams

We dream of a future where our grandchildren can enjoy the inheritance from their ancestors: a forest in which they can breathe fresh air, run freely, and lead a healthy life. Over the past years, we have been organizing ourselves and creating women’s associations to create economic alternatives to resource extraction for our families and communities, through initiatives such as tailoring, hand crafts, and other products such as chocolate.

We are now embarking on a powerful journey to build our own educational systems, based upon our cultures and ways of life. We believe that an education rooted in our identity and our territory will strengthen our struggle to defend the forest, and allow our grandchildren to grow strong and confident. They’ll be able to speak their own language, and carry on our traditions, our customs and our cosmovisions. They won’t be as vulnerable to discrimination and they’ll be able to interact with the Western world without the need to change their identity.

Indigenous women gather during a workshop about storytelling techniques and tools

Women are guardians of the ancestral knowledge of our peoples. Women have always been important because we are the ones who take care of and raise our children. Our grandmothers are pillars for our communities. They have many stories to tell, much advice to offer, and lots of wisdom to share. For this reason, we also aspire to become journalists, photographers and filmmakers. We want all women’s voices to be heard. We want our stories to be told, our ancestral knowledge to be recovered, and our visions to be shared according to our own experiences and our strength as women.

We will continue dreaming to protect our forest. We are the earth, the water, the air. We are the forest itself. And for her, we will continue to fight and unite until the end, with lots of love, and lots of rebellion.

Amazon Frontlines

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