An Indigenous tribe of people called the Waorani in the Ecuadorian Amazon won a lawsuit that protected some half a million acres of forest land from being mined for oil drilling.

A panel made up of three judges in the Provincial Court indefinitely suspended the auctioning of Waorani lands to oil companies after the people argued that the government could not sell these lands without their consent.

Nemonte Nenquimo, a Waorani leader, told the New Yorker that the verdict made her and her tribe feel safer: “The court recognised that the government violated our right to live free, and make our own decisions about our territory and self-determination.”

Our territory is our decision, and now, since we are owners, we are not going to let oil enter and destroy out nature surroundings and kill our culture.

The Waorani protested

The court’s decision sets a legal precedent that could allow other indigenous nations across the Amazon to take the government to court in order to protect their home.

According to reports, the court also stopped the potential auctioning of 16 oil blocks covering seven million acres of indigenous property.

Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio is one of many activists who campaigned for the Waorani people.

The Waorani people are one day away from saving half-a-million acres of forest from oil drilling. Watch the video and send a message to Ecuador’s government: protect indigenous rights & the Amazon. https://waoresist.amazonfrontlines.org/action/ @AFrontlines #WeLoveTheEarth #WaoraniResistance​

In February, the Waorani and Ecuador's Ombudsman – who serve as parliament’s appointed officials and public advocates – sued the government for not properly consulting with them before they opened up territory for potential oil exploration.

In 2018 the government had initially removed Waorani land from an international auction but warned it could still be subject to drilling in the future.

In 2012, according to Nenquimo, representatives for the Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Resources visited the village to speak with her family, who were not in at the time. They did not, she said, discuss the serious impacts of oil drilling on the land and forests and rivers, and instead treated it as a “box-ticking exercise.”

The tribe alleged that the agreement was based on fraudulent practices.

Oswando Nenquimo, spokesperson for the Waorani of Pastaza, added:

“Today we have protected our forest from oil drilling; we have protected our water from contamination; we have protected our children from sickness.

This is a legal precedent for indigenous rights. But the fight is far from over. The government will appeal because they still want the oil beneath our land. Indigenous Nations across the Amazon and the world must band together to protect our homes.

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