Letter to Nine Leaders

From Nemonte Nenquimo who is a member of the Waorani community in the Amazon of Ecuador

“Dear presidents of the nine Amazonian countries and to all world leaders that share responsibility of plundering the planet. We Indigenous people are fighting to save the Amazon, but the whole planet is in trouble because you do not respect it.

My name is Nemonte Nenquimo. I am a Waorani woman, a mother, and a leader of my people. The Amazon rainforest is my home. I am writing this letter because the fire is still raging. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the White man can eat. Because our elders are dying from coronavirus while you are planning your next moves to cut up our lands to stimulate an economy that has never benefited us. Because, as Indigenous people, we are fighting to protect what we love, our way of life, our rivers, our animals, our forests, life on Earth, it’s time you listened to us.

In each of many hundreds of different languages across, the Amazon, we have a word for you—the outsider, the stranger. In my language, WaoTededo, that word is “cowori”. And it doesn’t need to be a bad word. But you have made it so. For us, the word has come to mean (and in a terrible way, your society has come to represent): the White man that knows too little for the power he wields, and the damage he causes.

You are probably not used to an Indigenous woman calling you ignorant and, less so, on a platform such as this. But for Indigenous people it is clear: the less you know about something, the less value it has for you, and the easier it is to destroy. And by easy, I mean: guiltlessly, remorselessly, foolishly, even righteously. And this is exactly what you are doing to us as Indigenous peoples, to our rainforest territories, and ultimately our planet’s climate.”

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