Contact: Sophie Pinchetti, firstname.lastname@example.org, Whatsapp: +593 98 148 4873. Photos and interviews with Nemonte Nenquimo and additional spokespeople available upon request.
(Puyo, Ecuador. September 23, 2020) — In a major global recognition of the struggle of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon, TIME has named Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo from Ecuador to this year’s TIME 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Nenquimo’s mention is introduced by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, an avid supporter of Indigenous rights and Amazon protection.
Nemonte Nenquimo is a prominent Indigenous leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon, who is fighting to protect her ancestral territory, culture, and way of life. In 2019, Nenquimo led her people’s historic legal victory against the Ecuadorian government, protecting half-a-million acres of primary rainforest from oil drilling and setting a precedent for Indigenous rights across the region. She is a member of the Waorani nation, legendary hunter-harvesters of the southcentral Ecuadorian Amazon, who currently number approximately 5000 spread across 54 communities over roughly 2.5 million acres of some of the most richly biodiverse and threatened rainforest on the planet. Raised in the traditional community of Nemonpare in the Pastaza region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Nenquimo co-founded the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance in 2015 to protect Indigenous lands and livelihoods from resource extraction within their territories. In 2018, she was elected the first female president of CONCONAWEP, the Waorani organization of Pastaza province.
“The TIME 100 recognition is for our ancestors, our elders, and all Indigenous peoples fighting to protect the Amazon”, declared Nenquimo in response to the announcement. “The fires, pandemic, and accelerating climate change are a stark reminder that our world is out of balance. Along with my indigenous sisters and brothers, we hope TIME’s recognition will inspire people from all nations and countries to stand with us in demanding respect for Indigenous rights and to listen to Indigenous knowledge and solutions. Now is the time to unite to protect the Amazon, our planet, and climate for future generations.”
Nenquimo is the only Indigenous woman featured on the 2020 TIME list and among the first Amazonians to ever receive the accolade. In reaction to the news, the Waorani nation of Ecuador celebrated the honor as a recognition of their collective struggle in a public statement:
“Throughout the Amazon, our indigenous territories and cultures are being gravely threatened by governments, extractive industries, and invaders. The TIME 100 news is an important recognition that our struggle is being heard. Western civilization is waking up to the need to listen to and respect Indigenous peoples. As indigenous peoples, we are connected with our origins, and with the spirits of our territories. We are defending Mother Earth with our courage, our knowledge, and our lives. It is time for governments and companies to listen to us and respect us.”
The Waorani people’s resistance continues to inspire frontline Indigenous communities across the Amazon and beyond as a powerful example of Indigenous-led action against fossil fuel extraction. Nenquimo was instrumental in developing her people’s multi-faceted campaign, which ultimately defeated the Ecuadorian government in court and galvanized Indigenous resistance to the auctioning of Indigenous territories to foreign oil companies. The Waorani people’s struggle emerged as a flashpoint in the South American country, highlighting the growing conflict between the Ecuadorian government’s thirst for oil revenues to relieve international debt and indigenous peoples’ internationally recognized rights to free, prior and informed consent, self-determination, territory and the rights of nature, which have been recognized by the Ecuadorian constitution since 2008.
Nenquimo is only the second Ecuadorian to be named to the TIME100 list, which recognizes the activism, innovation, and achievement of the world¹s most influential individuals and is now in its seventeenth year. Nenquimo’s recognition comes as Ecuador grapples with a severe coronavirus outbreak in rainforest territories and struggles to revive its fragile debt-ridden economy – crises that compound existing threats to Indigenous peoples’ survival. Since the onset of the pandemic, Nenquimo has organized independent medical brigades and other relief to Waorani communities infected by the novel coronavirus, as well as united with other Indigenous nations to demand a moratorium on all resource extraction in the Amazon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The recognition of Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo as a TIME100 Honoree shines a light on the collective struggles of Indigenous peoples who are putting their bodies on the line to fight against the most pressing threats facing the Amazon and our climate. This honor also serves to highlight the solutions and resilience of Indigenous peoples amid multiple crises”, said Amazon Frontlines’ Executive Director & Founder Mitch Anderson, a nonprofit organization based in the Upper Amazon, which defends indigenous peoples’ rights to land, life, and cultural survival, and which has been working closely with the Waorani and other Indigenous nations for nearly a decade.
The Waorani will return to the courtroom this fall, before Ecuador’s Supreme Court, as their precedent-setting legal case has been selected to set national level jurisprudence on Indigenous Rights, with specific regard to the right to free, prior, and informed consent. The process comes amid intensifying extraction across the Amazon and contentious debate over Indigenous peoples’ right to veto projects affecting their territories.
“As Indigenous peoples, we have demonstrated our critical role in the protection of the balance of life and our planet, and we have won the first battle against the pandemic. But our fight against the tougher pandemic of extractivism threatening our territories and our survival continues”, declared José Gregorio Diaz Mirabal from COICA, the coordinating body of Indigenous organizations across the nine-country Amazon basin.
About Amazon Frontlines:
Amazon Frontlines is a non-profit organization based in Lago Agrio, Ecuador that leverages technology, legal advocacy and movement building to support indigenous peoples to defend their rights to land, life and cultural survival in the Amazon Rainforest. For more information, visit www.amazonfrontlines.org.