An Uncommon Victory for an Indigenous Tribe in the Amazon

Nemonte Nenquimo and other representatives of the Waorani people marched in Puyo, Ecuador, on the day they won a lawsuit against the government, over plans to lease oil rights on their land.

Photograph by Rodrigo Buendia / AFP / Getty

On April 26th, a parade of hundreds of Waorani men and women, members of an indigenous nation in a remote part of the Ecuadorian Amazon, marched triumphantly through the streets of Puyo, the regional capital of the eastern province of Pastaza. Many had come from villages in parts of the rain forest that have no roads—journeying by canoe and small plane. They were celebrating a new court ruling, which held that the Ecuadorian government could not, as it had planned, auction off their land for oil exploration without their consent. Nemonte Nenquimo, a Waorani leader, told me that they had come to Puyo to reclaim their right to self-governance and that the verdict had made them feel safer. “The court recognized that the government violated our right to live free, and make our own decisions about our territory and self determination,” she said, over WhatsApp. “Our territory is our decision, and now, since we are owners, we are not going to let oil enter and destroy our natural surroundings and kill our culture.”

Read more By Rachel Riederer at www.newyorker.com