People's Stories Indigenous People

Support Indigenous Communities in the Amazon
by Avaaz, Ceibo Alliance, agencies
Oct. 2020
We Indigenous people are fighting to save the Amazon, but the whole planet is in trouble, writes Nemonte Nenquimo cofounder of the Ceibo Alliance.
Dear presidents of the nine Amazonian countries and to all world leaders that share responsibility for the plundering of our rainforest,
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 you this letter because the fires are raging still.
Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the 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 peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love – our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth – and it’s time that you listened to us.
In each of our 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 that he wields, and the damage that 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 peoples it is clear: the less you know about something, the less value it has to 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 to our planet’s climate.
It took us thousands of years to get to know the Amazon rainforest. To understand her ways, her secrets, to learn how to survive and thrive with her. And for my people, the Waorani, we have only known you for 70 years (we were “contacted” in the 1950s by American evangelical missionaries), but we are fast learners, and you are not as complex as the rainforest.
When you say that the oil companies have marvellous new technologies that can sip the oil from beneath our lands like hummingbirds sip nectar from a flower, we know that you are lying because we live downriver from the spills. When you say that the Amazon is not burning, we do not need satellite images to prove you wrong; we are choking on the smoke of the fruit orchards that our ancestors planted centuries ago.
When you say that you are urgently looking for climate solutions, yet continue to build a world economy based on extraction and pollution, we know you are lying because we are the closest to the land, and the first to hear her cries.
I never had the chance to go to university, and become a doctor, or a lawyer, a politician, or a scientist. My elders are my teachers. The forest is my teacher. And I have learned enough (and I speak shoulder to shoulder with my Indigenous brothers and sisters across the world) to know that you have lost your way, and that you are in trouble (though you don’t fully understand it yet) and that your trouble is a threat to every form of life on Earth.
You forced your civilisation upon us and now look where we are: global pandemic, climate crisis, species extinction and, driving it all, widespread spiritual poverty.
In all these years of taking, taking, taking from our lands, you have not had the courage, or the curiosity, or the respect to get to know us. To understand how we see, and think, and feel, and what we know about life on this Earth.
I won’t be able to teach you in this letter, either. But what I can say is that it has to do with thousands and thousands of years of love for this forest, for this place. Love in the deepest sense, as reverence. This forest has taught us how to walk lightly, and because we have listened, learned and defended her, she has given us everything: water, clean air, nourishment, shelter, medicines, happiness, meaning. And you are taking all this away, not just from us, but from everyone on the planet, and from future generations.
It is the early morning in the Amazon, just before first light: a time that is meant for us to share our dreams, our most potent thoughts. And so I say to all of you: the Earth does not expect you to save her, she expects you to respect her. And we, as Indigenous peoples, expect the same.
• Nemonte Nenquimo is cofounder of the Indigenous-led nonprofit organisation Ceibo Alliance in Ecuador, and the first female president of the Waorani organisation of Pastaza province:
Sep. 2020
Support Indigenous Communities in the Amazon. (Avaaz)
I made the first call, and cried. Then I made a hundred more - talking to Amazon chiefs and elders throughout the rainforest.
The voices changed, but it was all one story: of earth's most resilient people, passionate guardians of the forest, facing utter devastation by Covid-19. It's killing their elders, their children, mothers, and warriors.
One man was days from any hospital, and his wife was sick. The next time we spoke, she was dead. And yet he couldn't stop to grieve. Too many of his people still needed help.
The scale of the suffering nearly broke me, but instead, I got to work on a plan. We've now mapped out the Amazon's most vulnerable communities and what they need to survive. We know where they are, and how we reach them -- and I'm hopeful, because with just one good fundraising response from the Avaaz community, we can save thousands of lives. Medicine, covid tests, urgent food aid - we can deliver it all.
It's an ambitious plan, but these people -- the Waorani, the Yanesha, the Kayapo, and dozens more - they've given all they can to protect their families and the rainforest. Now it's our turn. Donate now and Avaaz will spend every penny we get on this urgent response.
* Protecting the Earth’s First Responders from Covid-19: How to Prevent the extinction of Indigenous Communities in the Amazon (Avaaz Report):
* Access the link below to support the Avaaz campaign for the first peoples of the Amazon.

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Land-grabbing in Asia displaces indigenous peoples and destroys environment
by Francisco Cali-Tzay
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Sep. 2020
Indigenous peoples in Asia are facing massive displacement, the destruction of their environment and rising poverty due to land-grabbing, says a UN human rights expert.
"Large-scale development projects including dams, mining, monocrop plantations and logging are increasing in the region and causing serious human rights violations as indigenous peoples lose their traditional lands and resources," said the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Francisco Cali-Tzay, referring to a regional consultation organised by his predecessor in Bangkok. It will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September.
"States must take measures to prevent violence and the criminalisation of indigenous peoples arising from the exercise of their rights and the defence of their lands and territories. Strengthening the regulation of private companies is essential."
Indigenous peoples lack legal recognition of their status and there is widespread failure to protect their lands and respect their rights to participate and to be consulted in decisions affecting them.
Across the region, indigenous peoples, in particular women and persons with disabilities, continue to be discriminated against and marginalised. For States to put into action their development pledge of leaving no one behind, the obligations towards indigenous peoples must be at the forefront and reflected in policy measures and in the allocation of resources.
"The promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples and their traditional practices, are key to achieve sustainable development, combat climate change and the conservation of biodiversity," the Special Rapporteur said.
* View report on regional consultation here:
COVID-19: Indigenous peoples’ voices must be heard, says UN expert
Indigenous peoples have largely been left out of COVID-19 responses globally and the pandemic is likely to worsen inequalities and racism in wider society.
"Indigenous peoples are likely to be among those hardest hit by the impending global recession, extreme poverty and escalating rates of malnutrition," said Francisco Calí Tzay, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said in a report to the General Assembly in New York.
The UN expert called for pandemic emergency protocols to be developed jointly with indigenous peoples, consistent with their individual and collective rights. And, he said, response plans must recognise and incorporate traditional indigenous knowledge.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most widely-recognised comprehensive international standard, and its implementation is key to ensuring indigenous peoples are not left behind in the COVID recovery process, Calí Tzay said.
"The pandemic truly highlights how the failure to recognise the collective dimension of indigenous peoples' rights can result in many indigenous communities being less resilient to the health and economic impacts of the global crisis," he said.
The UN expert said he had received over 150 direct and indirect testimonies in compiling the report. "One of the trends I observed is that those indigenous peoples who are able to decide how best to protect their communities and to use their collective lands, including for subsistence farming, are the least affected by the virus and the disruption of the global economy," he said.
The report also highlights how resilience to the pandemic is increased when indigenous peoples can exercise their right to administer their own health and community programmes, complemented by accessible and non-discriminatory national health and education systems.
"In practice, indigenous peoples are denied the necessary support to operate their own institutions and in many cases left with no choice but to exclusively rely on their own traditional medicine to cope with the virus," said Calí Tzay.
The report also highlighted that where national protocols had been adopted to address the particular situation of indigenous peoples, they had often come late and were underfunded, and without the necessary consultations to ensure the specific resiliency and needs of indigenous peoples were properly addressed.
"Now is the time for governments to give indigenous peoples an active role in national recovery planning and implementation, ensuring protection of their collective identity and cultural survival, and recognising that indigenous wisdom can guide the path for the wider society towards a recovery that is in harmony with nature, also reducing the risk of future similar pandemics," he said.
* Access the report:

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