Who is Nemonte Nenquimo? Leonardo DiCaprio stands up for Indigenous people with Waorani chief's powerful words
Nemonte Nenquimo may be one of TIME's 100 most influential people in the world, but little is known about her. Co-founder of the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance, she is the first female president of the Waorani organization of Pastaza province and is breaking barriers with her mighty words.
Her activism caught Leonardo DiCaprio's eyes as the 'Titanic' star took to Twitter to share her words and his tweet soon collected over 2,500 likes. "Today, on #IndigenousPeoplesDay, TIME 100 honoree Nemonte Nenquimo has written a powerful letter from the Amazon about her fight for #IndigenousRights and our climate," he wrote.
The 45-year-old actor shared the letter from the Amazon titled "You destroy what you don't understand" addressed to "Presidents of the nine Amazonian countries and to all world leaders that share responsibility for the plundering of our rainforest". It soon clicked with several Native Americans and they lent their support to it.
"I do hope they listen to voices of the Amazon people!! I spend my early childhood in the Ecuadorian Amazon, always want to go back as its such a sacred place for humanity, which needs to be protected," one Twitter user wrote and another said, "Thank you, Leonardo, I love your democracy As Trump celebrates the invasion of Christopher Columbus, you are tweeting about Indigenous Peoples success stories I am proud of you."
I do hope they listen to voices of the Amazon people!! I spend my early childhood in the Ecuadorian Amazon, always want to go back as its such a sacred place for humanity, which needs to be protected.— Carolina Andrade (@Carolinamandrad) October 12, 2020
Thank you Leonardo, I love your democracy— ♓️ Vivi" Fatimah “ (@vivi20880604) October 12, 2020
As Trump celebrates the invasion of Christopher Columbus, you are tweeting about Indigenous Peoples success stories
I am proud of you ♥️
No sooner did it grab attention on social media, people couldn't stop wondering who Nemonte Nenquimo was.
Who is Nemonte Nenquimo?
"My name is Nemonte Nenquimo. I am a Waorani woman, a mother, and a leader of my people. The Amazon rainforest is my home," she penned down in her letter. In 2019, Nenquimo led her people's historic legal victory against the Ecuadorian government, protecting half-a-million acres of primary rainforest from oil drilling and setting a precedent for Indigenous rights across the region, as per a biography by Amazon Frontlines.
It also reads: "She is a member of the Waorani nation, legendary hunter-harvesters of the southcentral Ecuadorian Amazon, who currently number approximately 5000 spread across 54 communities over roughly 2.5 million acres of some of the most richly biodiverse and threatened rainforest on the planet. Raised in the traditional community of Nemonpare in the Pastaza region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Nenquimo co-founded the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance in 2015 to protect Indigenous lands and livelihoods from resource extraction within their territories. In 2018, she was elected the first female president of CONCONAWEP, the Waorani organization of Pastaza province."
Did you know she is the only Indigenous woman featured on the 2020 TIME list and among the first Amazonians to ever receive the accolade? Not just that, she is only the second Ecuadorian to make it to the TIME100 list, which recognizes the activism, innovation, and achievement of the world¹s most influential individuals.
“The fires, pandemic, and accelerating climate change are a stark reminder that our world is out of balance. Along with my indigenous sisters and brothers, we hope TIME’s recognition will inspire people from all nations and countries to stand with us in demanding respect for Indigenous rights and to listen to Indigenous knowledge and solutions. Now is the time to unite to protect the Amazon, our planet, and climate for future generations,” Nenquimo said after the announcement.
Back in April 2020, she sent out a message to millions titled "Are you a good ancestor?". This animated short, created in collaboration with Global Wildlife Conservation, celebrated the interconnectedness of all life on the planet for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
This is not the first time that the Academy Award-winning actor and activist spoke about her. On September 22, 2020, he endorsed her in a message published by Time.
"Last year, the Amazon was better known for acres ablaze than for acres saved. But the lawsuit that Nemonte Nenquimo, president of the Waorani of Pastaza and a co-founder of the Ceibo Alliance, brought forth was a rare bright spot. The landmark ruling protects the Waorani’s ancestral home in Ecuador from immediate destruction," he said.
He continued, "The ripples have brought hope to Indigenous communities everywhere, all too often facing overwhelming odds of their own. Nemonte lives her fight, and to have a conversation with her is to witness a rare clarity of purpose. I remember she once told me that she wasn’t going to give up. That she was going to keep fighting. That she would continue to defend the forest that she loves from the industries and the oil companies that would devour it."
DiCaprio added, "She has kept her word, and continues to be a voice and advocate for her community. Nemonte’s cause is all our cause. She inspires those she speaks with to shoulder the nearest boulder and walk alongside her as her movement continues to grow. I am lucky to have met her, and I am luckier still to have learned from her."