Waorani people traveling by canoe on a river

Drilling Down

In 2012, the government of Ecuador wanted to offer new drilling rights to oil companies. The drilling area included Waorani lands. By law, the government had to explain this to the Waorani.

Government representatives flew into the rainforest. They held short, rushed meetings. Many Waorani did not have enough time to get there. Few understood the language being used.

Later, the Waorani learned that the government had divided up a large section of the Amazon for drilling. The Waorani section was number 22. They needed to defend their land.

A Leader for Her People

Nemonte Nenquimo was born and raised in the Waorani culture. Early in her childhood, her family moved to a community deep in the rainforest.

a Waorani community gathering

This Waorani elder uses a blowpipe and darts for hunting.

Nenquimo’s grandfather, Piyemo, was a respected warrior. He believed that the rainforest should be protected. From him, Nenquimo learned that the land must be defended against threats.

Nenquimo also learned from Waorani women. They have always been the caretakers of the forest. They watch over the plants and animals and tell the men where to hunt and for which animals.

In 2015, Nenquimo helped lead the Waorani in a project to map their ancestral lands. Elders and young people worked together. They mapped the sacred waterways, animal breeding sites, and fruit tree groves. They used traditional drawings as well as GPS and cameras.

Later, these maps would be used to show the deep relationship the Waorani have to their land.

The Waorani mapped the rainforest to show their connection to the land.

Surrounded by her people, Nenquimo speaks to reporters about the court case.

Nenquimo and four other women were elected to lead the lawsuit. It argued that the government had not gotten the free agreement of the Waorani. This was required by law.