It’s official: today, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we’re thrilled to announce that our co-founders Nemonte Nenquimo and Mitch Anderson will be publishing a book that will hit newsstands worldwide in June 2024!
Titled ‘We Will Be Jaguars’ in the United States and ‘We Will Not Be Saved’ in the United Kingdom, Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo’s inspiring book digs into thousands of years of oral history, uproots centuries of conquest, hacks away at many of the prevailing racist notions the Western world has when it considers the lives of Indigenous peoples, and ultimately reveals a life story as rich, as harsh, and as vital as the Amazon rainforest herself.
“I am writing this book because the fires will burn again. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold. Because the land grabbers are cutting down our forest so that cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat. Because, 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 the world listened to us!”, said Nemonte.
The book features stories of Nemonte’s elders, and details Nemonte’s own life story, from escaping missionary indoctrination, to leading world-renowned campaigns protecting her ancestral homeland, to co-founding the non-profit organizations Amazon Frontlines and the Ceibo Alliance. “Her message to the world is as sharp as the spears that her ancestors wielded — cut and carved by her experiences battling loggers, miners, oil companies and missionaries on the frontlines of the greatest tropical forest on Earth”, said Mitch Anderson, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Amazon Frontlines and Nemonte’s partner in life and activism, with whom she co-authored the book.
‘We Will be Jaguars’ is also the first ever published memoir of an Amazonian Indigenous woman to be released in seven languages, and a landmark translation of millennial traditions of oral Waorani storytelling into the written form. As Nemonte writes, “For us, stories have never been written down. That’s why they’re always changing – and that’s how we know that they are alive.” For the Waorani people, stories are sacred living beings, to be treated very cautiously. After all, a story can heal, but also start a war; a story can show, but also hide.
For decades, colonizers have used literature, cinema, media and now the internet to perpetuate false and harmful stories about Indigenous peoples. That’s exactly why authentic storytelling by Indigenous people themselves is one of the core elements of our work at Amazon Frontlines and our partner organization Ceibo Alliance. We communicate to counter colonial narratives and support Indigenous nations to disseminate their own stories about their realities, ancestral memories and histories.
For nearly a decade, we have been working hand in hand with our Indigenous partners to create hard hitting media campaigns, films, articles and journalistic investigations. We’ve also established an Indigenous Storytelling Lab, offering training and support to a new generation of Indigenous journalists, photographers and filmmakers across the Amazon. And now, we’re taking another bold step into the world of publishing!
“We started to write this book together two years ago in the days after our son, Sol, was born in our home in the heart of Nemonte’s ancestral territory,” explains Mitch. “We would wake up before first light, and Nemonte would tell me her people’s story by the embers of the fire. Ancient tales, songs, her first memories of life in the missionary village, the arrival of the oil companies, her journey as a Waorani leader in the fight to protect her forest and her culture. I spent hundreds of hours listening. The challenge before me was then how to handle the written word – how to handle narrative in the English language – in a way that embraces and respects the Waorani oral tradition and the deep collective roots of Nemonte’s story. As I would read and translate drafts back to her, Nemonte would guide me through what should be said and what should be unsaid and how to touch the written word with the spirit of the Waorani oral tradition.”
As the world faces an accelerating climate crisis, We Will Be Jaguars issues a stark clarion call: there is no conceivable future unless we respect our planet and follow the leadership of Indigenous peoples who have lived in harmony with the natural world for thousands of years. As Nemonte and Mitch say, “we hope this book will rattle the world-awake and spark deep conversations about how Indigenous wisdom and earth-stewardship is a vital solution to the climate crisis that humanity is facing”.
Over the next months, keep your eyes peeled: we’ll be sharing behind-the-scenes scoops and book excerpts!
Make this story go big by pre-ordering your copy of the book here.
“We Will be Jaguars / We Will Not Be Saved” will be available on newsstands worldwide in June 2024 and released in seven languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Korean, and Spanish.