“Our Forest Is Our Life”: Indigenous Peoples from Ecuadorian Amazon Defend Historic Victories For Indigenous Rights & Amazon Protection

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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.

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