There’s no doubt that the year 2020 has been an uphill battle for so many communities across the world. With issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against police brutality, and the escalating effects of climate change, lots of folks have learned that it takes numbers to make the world a better place. Luckily, there’s strong and courageous people who have taken on the lead in this fight.
Recently, Time magazine came out with their official list of 2020’s most influential people, one of whom is leader and activist Nemonte Nenquimo.
Indigenous activist from Ecuador, Nemonte Nenquimo, has been leading the fight in protecting the Amazon rainforest for several years. Just last year Nenquimo succeeded in protecting half-a-million acres of primary rainforest, which was a huge milestone for her and her community.
As an Indigenous woman, mother, and leader, Nenquimo has made it her ultimate mission to protect the land of her people.
After learning that different oil companies were interested in participating in an auction for the land where Nenquimo and other indigenous groups reside, she decided to file a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government. Leading up to the verdict, Nenquimo and several indigenous groups stood side by side in powerful protest. In result, the indigenous people won and were able to gain protection of not only their land, but their identity, culture, and precious ancestry.
After this amazing news, Nenquimo proudly carried her spear with her to the front of the courthouse. In an interview with The New Yorker, she said, “In my blood, I felt my grandfather, and my other ancestors, who protected their territory at the tip of the spear.”
After making it onto the list of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world, folks across the internet cheered her on for this much deserved recognition.
In addition to the support of hundreds of people around the world, Nenquimo and her community have also received tremendous support from Amazon Frontlines. This non-profit organization specifically focuses on working with the indigenous people of the Amazon forest. Just like Nenquimo, Amazon Frontlines also aims to defend the indigenous people’s rights to their land, culture, and ancestry. This non-profit’s team is made up of several hard working folks, from human rights lawyers, to environmental activists, forestry specialists, and more. Together, this team is standing side by side with the indigenous peoples who are fighting to defend their homes.
Recently, Amazon Frontlines gave Nenquimo the platform to deliver a personal, beautiful, and powerful letter dedicated to all nine Presidents of Amazonian countries.
In this letter, Nenquimo passionately explained her concerns for the destruction of Amazon rainforests, which not only leads to the destruction of the earth, but the destruction of her culture, home, and community. With hopes to be seen and to be heard, Nenquimo emphasized all the ways her and her community have been negatively affected by oil companies. She wrote:
“When you say that the oil companies have marvelous 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.“
Through these words, you can sense the anger, frustration, and disappointment Nenquimo is feeling. Rather than being disrespected and disregarded, Nenquimo hopes that government leaders and oil company owners are willing to learn more about the indigenous people’s identities, cultures, and lifestyles in the Amazon forests. This way, instead of turning the other cheek and making decisions based on money, Nenquimo urges the governors of Amazonian countries to value the lives and homes of indigenous peoples.
To read the rest of Nenquimo’s powerful letter, or to learn more about Amazon Frontlines and how you can help, go here.
Now that Nenquimo has received the recognition she deserves, people are starting to feel inspired by her words, courage, and endless fighting spirit. In Ecuador, two artists painted a beautiful mural in her honor.
To learn more about Times 100 Most Influential people and the impactful things they are doing, go here. And to follow Nenquimo’s fight for her and her people’s land, head on over to her Instagram page here.
Who are some powerful leaders you look up to?
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