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.

“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.

“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!”

Waorani leader 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 outside Ecuador’s Supreme Court.

“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.

“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.

Amazon Frontlines

Amazon FrontlinesDefending indigenous rights to land, life and cultural survival in the Amazon rainforest.

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