“OUR FOREST IS OUR LIFE" - Amazon Frontlines

by Amazon Frontlines

/ February 2020

After a long journey from the Amazon traveling by foot, by canoe and by road, hundreds of indigenous peoples arrived in Ecuador’s capital city last week to mobilize in support of the Waorani and Kofan nations, whose historic victories against oil and mining interests have inspired hundreds of indigenous communities across the Amazon in their resistance against extractivism.

United with other indigenous nations from the Ecuadorian Amazon including the Kichwa, Sapara, Shiwiar, Shuar, Siekopai, and Siona, who face similar rights violations and threats in their territories, indigenous youth and elders took to the streets of Quito in song and dance and staged powerful mobilizations outside several State institutions to denounce the government’s ongoing complicity in Amazon destruction and its failure to comply with their court rulings. The Waorani and Kofan notably met with Ecuador’s Supreme Court, which has accepted the Kofan of Sinangoe’s case for review – an important feat for indigenous peoples in Ecuador, which could also mark the country’s first ever Supreme Court ruling on prior consultation and the right to self-determination as applied to indigenous peoples.

The Waorani and Kofan know the stakes are high, and that their victories present invaluable opportunities to advance the law and indigenous rights not only in Ecuador, but across the region. Yet despite their important triumphs against big oil and mining and the recognition of the importance of their cases by Ecuador’s Supreme Court and the United Nations, the government’s extractive agenda continues full throttle. Recent announcements reveal plans to expand oil and mining concessions in the Amazon in order to repay the country’s crushing debt to China, imperiling our world’s most important forest, indigenous territories, and our planet’s climate.

In 2018 and 2019, the Kofan and Waorani won unprecedented legal battles against the Ecuadorian government, protecting hundreds of thousands of pristine megabiodiverse rainforest, and setting invaluable legal precedents for indigenous rights in the country and the Amazon region. In the months ahead, the Waorani and Kofan will continue to ramp up the pressure to ensure that the Ecuadorian government respects indigenous rights and territories.

WAORANI AND KOFAN PEOPLE MOBILIZE OUTSIDE ECUADOR’S SUPREME COURT AND ARE JOINED BY OTHER INDIGENOUS NATIONS INCLUDING THE KICHWA, SAPARA, SHUAR, SIONA, SIEKOPAI AND SCHIWIAR IN THE CAPITAL CITY OF QUITO

“WE ARE THE VOICE OF THE FOREST. WE DEMAND THAT THE GOVERNMENT LISTEN TO US AND RESPECT US. WE CONTINUE TO RESIST. OUR LEGAL VICTORIES ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY DEFINE OUR FUTURE AS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES; THEY ARE AN IMPORTANT TOOL TO GUARANTEE OUR RIGHTS AND OUR PHYSICAL AND CULTURAL SURVIVAL IN OUR TERRITORIES”

Young Kofan leader Alex Lucitante delivers a powerful message outside Ecuador’s Supreme Court during a press conference. The Ecuadorian Supreme Court, in November of 2019, selected the Kofan community of Sinangoe’s ruling for review in order to turn their victory into national jurisprudence for indigenous peoples across the country.

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“WE ARE THE VOICE OF THE FOREST. WE DEMAND THAT THE GOVERNMENT LISTEN TO US AND RESPECT US. WE CONTINUE TO RESIST. OUR LEGAL VICTORIES ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY DEFINE OUR FUTURE AS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES; THEY ARE AN IMPORTANT TOOL TO GUARANTEE OUR RIGHTS AND OUR PHYSICAL AND CULTURAL SURVIVAL IN OUR TERRITORIES”

Young Kofan leader Alex Lucitante delivers a powerful message outside Ecuador’s Supreme Court during a press conference. The Ecuadorian Supreme Court, in November of 2019, selected the Kofan community of Sinangoe’s ruling for review in order to turn their victory into national jurisprudence for indigenous peoples across the country.

WAORANI AND KOFAN PEOPLE UNITE AND MOBILIZE TOGETHER TO DEFEND THEIR HISTORIC LEGAL VICTORIES, AND TO DENOUNCE THE STATE’S SYSTEMATIC VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO FREE, PRIOR AND INFORMED CONSENT

“OUR TERRITORY IS OUR HOME AND WE WILL NOT ALLOW THE STATE TO DESTROY OUR TERRITORIES AND OUR EXISTENCE. OUR FIGHT IS NOT JUST FOR US AS WAORANI PEOPLE. WE ARE UNITED IN THE SAME STRUGGLE WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS FROM OTHER INDIGENOUS NATIONS, SUCH AS THE SHUAR, THE SCHIWIAR, THE SAPARA. WE ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR LIFE AND FOR THE FUTURE GENERATIONS. THE GOVERNMENT MUST LISTEN TO US AND RESPECT OUR DECISIONS. WE WILL CONTINUE TO RESIST AND UNITE!”

Nemonte Nenquimo, who was lead plaintiff for her people’s legal victory last year protecting half a million acres of their rainforest territory from oil drilling, speaks out during a press conference

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“OUR TERRITORY IS OUR HOME AND WE WILL NOT ALLOW THE STATE TO DESTROY OUR TERRITORIES AND OUR EXISTENCE. OUR FIGHT IS NOT JUST FOR US AS WAORANI PEOPLE. WE ARE UNITED IN THE SAME STRUGGLE WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS FROM OTHER INDIGENOUS NATIONS, SUCH AS THE SHUAR, THE SCHIWIAR, THE SAPARA. WE ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR LIFE AND FOR THE FUTURE GENERATIONS. THE GOVERNMENT MUST LISTEN TO US AND RESPECT OUR DECISIONS. WE WILL CONTINUE TO RESIST AND UNITE!”

Nemonte Nenquimo, who was lead plaintiff for her people’s legal victory last year protecting half a million acres of their rainforest territory from oil drilling, speaks out during a press conference

A DELEGATION OF WAORANI AND KOFAN LEADERS PARTICIPATE IN AN OFFICIAL MEETING WITH SEVERAL JUDGES FROM ECUADOR’S SUPREME COURT. THE WAORANI AND KOFAN REQUESTED THAT THE COURT HEAR TESTIMONY FROM INDIGENOUS PEOPLES BEFORE RULING ON FUNDAMENTAL INDIGENOUS RIGHTS

AMAZON FRONTLINES LAWYER MARIA ESPINOZA SPEAKS OUT DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE OUTSIDE ECUADOR’S SUPREME COURT: “THESE COMMUNITIES’ RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED AND THEIR LIVES HAVE BEEN AFFECTED. THE SUPREME COURT NOW HAS A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY IN ITS HANDS, NOT ONLY TO REVIEW BOTH WAORANI AND KOFAN CASES, BUT ALSO TO MAKE A CLEAR DECLARATION ON THE RIGHT TO FREE, PRIOR AND INFORMED CONSENT, A RIGHT WHICH PROTECTS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES FROM EXTINCTION”

A WAORANI MAN FROM THE ECUADORIAN AMAZON STANDS ALONGSIDE POLICE DURING THE MOBILIZATION

“AS WAORANI ELDERS, WE HAVE COME TO DEMAND RESPECT FOR OUR RIGHT TO LIFE. OUR TERRITORIES ARE NOT FOR SALE”

– Omanca Enquiri, Waorani leader and elder (also known as a “Pekinani” in the Waorani people’s language). The Waorani people hope that their case will be selected, alongside the Kofan people’s case, to ensure that indigenous people’s rights to prior consultation and self-determination are guaranteed in accordance with the Ecuadorian Constitution and international law.

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“AS WAORANI ELDERS, WE HAVE COME TO DEMAND RESPECT FOR OUR RIGHT TO LIFE. OUR TERRITORIES ARE NOT FOR SALE”

– Omanca Enquiri, Waorani leader and elder (also known as a “Pekinani” in the Waorani people’s language). The Waorani people hope that their case will be selected, alongside the Kofan people’s case, to ensure that indigenous people’s rights to prior consultation and self-determination are guaranteed in accordance with the Ecuadorian Constitution and international law.

WAORANI MEN SING OUTSIDE THE MINISTRY OF ENERGY AND NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES AS PART OF THEIR PEOPLE’S MOBILIZATION DEMANDING RESPECT FOR INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND TERRITORIES, AND GOVERNMENT COMPLIANCE WITH THE HISTORIC WAORANI AND KOFAN LEGAL VICTORIES

“THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME WE HAVE COME HERE. OUR COURT RULING IS NOT BEING COMPLIED WITH. OUR LIVES ARE AT RISK. THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT IS NOT TAKING ACTIONS TO PROTECT OR MONITOR OUR TERRITORY AND MINING CONTINUES TO THREATEN OUR EXISTENCE”

– Kofan leader and President of the Sinangoe community, Edison Lucitante, speaks out to Ecuador’s Vice-Minister of the Environment inside their headquarters in Quito.

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“THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME WE HAVE COME HERE. OUR COURT RULING IS NOT BEING COMPLIED WITH. OUR LIVES ARE AT RISK. THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT IS NOT TAKING ACTIONS TO PROTECT OR MONITOR OUR TERRITORY AND MINING CONTINUES TO THREATEN OUR EXISTENCE”

– Kofan leader and President of the Sinangoe community, Edison Lucitante, speaks out to Ecuador’s Vice-Minister of the Environment inside their headquarters in Quito.

WINA OMACA, A GRANDMOTHER RECOGNIZED AS A WISE ELDER OR “PEKENANI” (WHO WAS ALSO PLAINTIFF FOR HER PEOPLE’S LAWSUIT AGAINST THE ECUADORIAN GOVERNMENT) ALONGSIDE ECUADORIAN POLICE MEMBERS DURING HER PEOPLE’S MOBILIZATION IN QUITO

WAORANI AND KOFAN NATIONS DANCE AFTER DELIVERING A UNITED MESSAGE AND WARNING TO ECUADOR’S MINISTRY OF ENERGY AND NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES IN THE CAPITAL CITY: “WE WILL NEVER ALLOW EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES TO ENTER OUR ANCESTRAL TERRITORIES. THE STATE MUST RESPECT OUR DECISIONS OVER OUR TERRITORIES”.

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