Waorani women lead the march to the court.

In Court

On April 11, 2019, hundreds of Waorani people marched through the streets of Puyo to the courthouse. They wore traditional clothes made of palm leaves. Their faces and arms were adorned with paint used for battle and special occasions.

As they walked, they sang their traditional songs. They wanted people to see their pride in their culture. Nenquimo walked at the front, her arms linked with other women. She felt like a warrior that day, she remembered later. Her face paint, her crown, and papers were her weapons.

Inside the courtroom, the Waorani and their lawyers presented their case to three judges.

Their maps would help the judges grasp the Waorani’s bond to their land. Elders would give testimony. Proof of oil pollution would be presented.

The Waorani wanted to protect their land.

Nenquimo stands with Waorani leaders in the courtroom.

The Ruling

On April 26, the judges were ready to announce their decision. Nenquimo held her grandmother’s hand tightly. The judge spoke. The government had not tried to understand the Waorani and their culture. One meeting was not enough for the Waorani to give their free consent to the auctioning of their lands. The judge gave the verdict: The land was to be protected. The Waorani had won.

Nenquimo remembers that the room was filled with emotion and music. Her grandmother began to sing a song celebrating their origins in the rainforest. She sang of a healthy future for their children.

Outside, they paraded through the streets. Rain began to pour down. For the Waorani, rain has always been a sign of nature celebrating a victory.

The ruling created a precedent. Other indigenous Amazonian people could use this case as an example for lawsuits of their own. It was a great victory, but Nenquimo’s work is not done. She is now focusing on the education of the Waorani children.

Nenquimo and other leaders celebrate their court victory.

Nenquimo wants to create jobs, so young people will stay on the land. She wants to protect and teach the Waorani language. But she knows young people must also learn the tools of the outside world. Then, they can carry on the fight!