When the Waorani people of the Ecuadorian Amazon heard their government was planning to sell drilling rights to their land to international oil companies, they mobilized. They mapped the land to illustrate to the Western world its otherwise unseen cultural, historical and ecological richness. These maps include “historic battle sites, ancient cave-carvings, jaguar trails, medicinal plants, animal reproductive zones, important fishing holes, creek-crossings and sacred waterfalls,” according to an online petition they launched in partnership with the NGO Amazon Frontlines. Then the Waorani sued the government for not properly consulting them when the decision was made in 2012 to dice up the rainforest into auctionable blocks of land. In April 2019, the Ecuadorian court ruled in favor of the Waorani, immediately suspending any sale of the land and setting a precedent for other communities resisting oil extraction in their lands.
The government’s interests in oil is not more valuable than our rights, our forests, our lives.
– Nemonte Nenquimo, one of the Waorani plaintiffs and representative of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP).
The Waorani win follows a win against mining operations last year by the indigenous Kofan community also in the Ecuadorian Amazon.