On 3 August 2013, Alicia Cawiya, Vice-President of the Huaorani
Nation of Ecuador, stood up to address the country’s Constituent
Assembly in Quito, broadcast live on national television.
She was expected to follow the script given to her by her President,
Chief Moi Enomenga, to accede to oil drilling in her homeland in the
headwaters of the Amazon River.
Moi had already signed agreements with Chinese oil companies,
giving them the right to extract oil on the territory of the Huaorani,
Taromenane and Tagaeri peoples, in the Yasuní national park, one of the
most bio-diverse places on the planet, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
Instead, Alicia defied her President and the government and made a
magnificent speech, first in her native Huaorani language, then in
Spanish, to denounce the oil companies and to speak up in defence of her
people, her indigenous brothers and sisters from other groups, and
The message to the Ecuadorian government
and to the transnational companies was clear: keep out. ‘Seven
companies have been working in Huaorani territory and we have become
poorer… How have we benefited? Not at all,’ declared Alicia to applause
from the Assembly. ‘The animals are now in danger of extinction. Who is
to blame? Not us… We have been conservationists. We want our territory
to be respected. Let us live the way we want to live.’
'Women have the power,' says Alicia Cawiya, threatened for defending
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