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In recent times it seems news of a lawsuit won by an Amazon tribe has been making rounds again and well, we should all keep in mind that while that lawsuit was won, the fight to preserve the Amazon is not over. The fires we’ve been hearing so much about as of late should be proof of that.

This lawsuit is actually from 2019 and while that is still relevant, it is not necessarily as new as most who come across those reposting these articles would think. However, the story of this amazing win is something to be aware of because it shows us that we all are capable of standing up to big oil and other huge industries for what is right. You see, the Amazon is home to tons of different species of animals (some even unknown/never before seen) but it is also home to some of the world’s last indigenous groups. These indigenous groups are people who live very different lives from you and I. They work with the land and are very much taken advantage of in lots of ways. 

The Waorani people who as you’d assume are indigenous people come from the Ecuadorian Amazon, and they have for generations lived within the rainforest and traditionally hope to continue to do so for many more generations but a large oil company came in and tried to change that for them. This tribe ended up facing a long drawn out legal battle with big oil and eventually they were finally able to say they had won. 

This ‘win’ occurred on April 26th, 2019 according to Amazon Frontlines, and has been noted as a historic moment. Because of this win half, a million acres of the territory belonging to this tribe was protected properly. While it might not sound like much, that is a huge amount of land and a step towards something more. When it comes to talking about the rainforest, the indigenous people who live in it are often overlooked and I believe that is something that needs to change. 

Amazon Frontlines wrote as follows on this topic back when this lawsuit finally came to an end:

“The government tried to sell our lands to the oil companies without our permission. Our rainforest is our life. We decide what happens in our lands. We will never sell our rainforest to the oil companies”, said Nemonte Nenquimo, President of the Waorani Pastaza Organization (CONCONAWEP) and plaintiff in the lawsuit. She added, “Today, the courts recognized that the Waorani people and all indigenous peoples have rights over our territories that must be respected. The government’s interests in oil is not more valuable than our rights, our forests, our lives.”

The court’s decision represents a major setback for the Ecuadorian Government’s plans to develop oil resources across the south-central Amazon and could mark a watershed moment in the indigenous movement to permanently protect their rainforest from oil drilling and other extractive projects. The panel of judges ruled that the Ecuadorian government must repeat the free, prior, and informed consent process according to the standards of international law and the Constitutional Court of Ecuador, and that the Ministry of Energy and Nonrenewable Resources and the Ministry of the Environment must sufficiently train government officials regarding the right to free, prior and informed consent and self-determination before sending them out into the field.

“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”, said Oswando Nenquimo, spokesperson for the Waorani of Pastaza. He added, “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.”

The Waorani people’s lawsuit has emerged as flashpoint in the South American country, highlighting the stark gap between the Ecuadorian government’s thirst for oil revenues to relieve international debt and indigenous peoples’ internationally recognized rights to free, prior and informed consent, self-determination, collective territory and the rights of nature. Amidst the backdrop of decades of contamination and cultural disruption in indigenous territories across the Amazon by oil operations, the Waorani’s court victory stands as a landmark victory for indigenous nations fighting to protect the last bastions of wild-standing forest.

In the verdict, the three-judge panel cited a pattern of structural flaws in the 2012 consultation process. These included wide-ranging failings with its design and implementation, including bad faith and false reporting on compliance, unintelligible communications, grossly insufficient time allocation, unaddressed complexities of translation, and poorly crafted informatic materials. But importantly, the ruling also exposed deeper underlying failings, declaring that the government disregarded the Waorani’s traditional governance and decision-making practices, omitted the inclusion of the Waorani’s legitimate traditional elder leaders pikenani in any significant way, broadly failed to guarantee that the Waorani fully understood the implications of the government’s plans for oil drilling in their territory, and did not ensure that they were given the opportunity to make a collective decision regarding those plans.

“This is a major precedent for indigenous rights across the Amazon. Today, the court has recognized a pattern of deceit, bad-faith, and manipulative tactics in the Ecuadorian Government’s attempt to earmark the Waorani people’s lands for oil extraction” said Mitch Anderson, Executive Director of Amazon Frontlines. “This is a huge step forward in the battle to ensure indigenous people’s rights over their lands are respected. Guaranteeing indigenous peoples’ rights to decide over their future and to say ‘No’ to destructive extractive projects is key to protecting the Amazon rainforest and halting climate change.”

“The Court’s ruling today declaring the violation of the Waorani’s rights to free, prior and informed consent and self-determination means that the Waorani territory overlapped by Oil Block 22 cannot be sold at auction until those rights are guaranteed. But it should also be interpreted to mean that the State cannot auction off the territories of the six other indigenous nations in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon, which were subject to the government’s same flawed and unconstitutional prior consultation process in 2012. The advance of oil destruction in the southern Amazon was brought to a halt today in this court by the courage and dignity of the Waorani of Pastaza”, said Maria Espinosa, lawyer for the Waorani from Amazon Frontlines.

All of this having been said, after this win, we ended up seeing something quite terrible happen. All of these fires began breaking out more-so than usual and some believe it could be linked to this win one way or another. While the fires have been happening in a different area, lots of people have been trying to break them down in their minds. 

The Express wrote as follows going over the concept that some believe these fires could be linked to this court case somehow:

The victory set a precedent for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest, yet, many are arguing that the fires that have been burning for more than two weeks are the beginning of something more sinister, with one Twitter user seeming to link the lawsuit and the fires, tweeting: “A little fiery conspiracy for this cold morning… fishy”.

Another said: “I seen recently that a group of indigenous people had won a court case so they can keep their land in the Amazon forest, and now it’s just weird how the forest is caught in fire!!

“Hmmm seems sus, that’s my theory!”

A third wrote: “It all starting to make sense now. The Amazon tribe wins the lawsuit against the Big Oil. After this happened, the rain forest caught on fire. This starting to look like a huge conspiracy. Hmm.”

There is no evidence to suggest the link as of yet.

I guess at the end of the day, proof of some kind of link is not present and well, opinions are all we have to go on in that sense but it does seem a bit fishy, doesn’t it? Regardless, the Amazon is extremely important for each and every one of us. We need to be doing all we can to ensure it is preserved and that damage done to it stops. We need to save the Amazon for the animals who live there, the plants we’ve not yet found that are hiding within, the indigenous people who call it their home, and our lungs who need the oxygen it provides. This planet would not be the same without the Amazon and sadly it seems most won’t realize that until it’s virtually gone.