Receiving The Gift of Giving Back With Privilege Comes Responsibility
How a single person can make an impact on indigenous self-determination in the Amazon
It began as a unique birthday present. Instead of receiving it, earlier this year Amazonian activist and artist Brigid Mary Prain instead gave what she refers to as her birthday ‘gift to life’. This year it was a two hundred dollar contribution to the travel costs of a group of indigenous people in the Amazon to help them take a stand against multinational corporations. At the time she hoped, but didn’t know, that she would be part of something amazing.
Brigid asked her own community to support the cause, knowing that a number of Waorani leaders, warriors, fisherman, medicine people, elders and youth from deep in their forest territory to the courthouse needed money to fund the expense of travel and accommodation to the Pastaza Provincial Court in Puyo, Ecuador.
In the Ecuadorian Amazon more species live in less space than anywhere else on the Planet… our global ecology cannot afford the loss of the Amazon.
– Brigid Mary Prain (from Our Amazon Treasure website) tweet
In early 2019, with her half-century birthday approaching, Brigid decided to support the Waorani people’s fight against big oil interests that, sanctioned by the government, were threatening their way of life and therefore ultimately all life.
She contacted Oswando Nenquimo (one of the spokespeople for the Waorani Resistencia) asking him what they needed most at that moment. In order to have full representation in court in late February the Waorani Resistiencia needed money to ensure the elders and medicine people would be able to travel comfortably to the courthouse.
In the initial hearing in February the entire court was stopped by the trance-like chanting of the Waorani women, in response to the denial of their demand that the people of the court hear the case whilst on Waorani territory deep within the jungle. They brought the rainforest into that room… once you feel the Amazon you fall in love.
– Brigid Mary Prain tweet
Giving directly to the cause
With a limited window of time to raise the money, Brigid knew that a thousand US dollars would go a long way in Ecuador. Demonstrating the simplicity of sacrificing a little, she then took a bold initiative to approach her employees with the invitation to match her own contribution dollar for dollar. Brigid was quickly able to raise close to a thousand US dollars. By choosing to be proactive and by encouraging others to give to the cause, Brigid got to share in the exhilarating satisfaction of seeing photographs of them leaving the court with the verdict in favour of their claim. The Waorani won!
Our fight is not just a fight about oil. This is a fight about different ways of living. One that protects life and one that destroys life.
− Nemonte Nenquimo, Waorani leader and President of CONCONAWEP tweet
Winning the first case didn’t stop the process, with the Ecuadorian government immediately filing an appeal. In July the Waorani celebrated a groundbreaking win against the Ecuadorian Government for failing to conduct a proper consultation process with the community before attempting to sell their land in an oil auction.
Hundreds of Waorani elders, youth gathered at the courthouse in Puyo demanding respect for their rights and the rights of nature.
The verdict, which will lead to the protection of 500,000 acres of Ecuadorian Amazon set a historic precedent for indigenous rights. follows after widespread support of the Waorani Resistance from such efforts as the Amazon Frontlines #waoraniresistence campaign which has built a global movement of solidarity with the struggle. Garnering more than 340,000 signatures and public support from international celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo,
Empowering self-determined protection
In following through with her convictions to support the Waorani tribes in ways that are of genuine assistance to their unique needs and priorities, Brigid has agreed to provide people from around the world the opportunity to travel through Waorani lands, to visit the tribespeople who are willing to share an experience of their way of life in order to create sustainable jungle livelihood.
With entitlement comes responsibility. And with responsibility comes freedom, the knowledge that together we can change our capacity to do, change our capacity to act as a concerned citizen in any situation.
– Brigid Mary Prain (from a recent social media post responding to the fires ravaging the Amazon) tweet
Brigid was motivated by the life-changing encounters she had with some of the rarest creatures of the Amazon, at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. Managed by Diego Mosquera, Tiputini is a Mecca for botanists, primatologists, entomologists, zoologists, and other scientists from around the world. With a capacity of only around 20 researchers at a time, staying at the station is an incredible opportunity. Brigid returned from the Amazon absolutely in love with it and “devastated that my species were threatening the lives of so many”, then went on to produce her first independently released film Our Amazon Treasure in 2016.
Now Brigid is able to offer others an equally incredible opportunity to connect with the people and lands of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Contributing to a new balance
Participants of upcoming tours led by Brigid will explore the Amazonian landscapes by invitation from local people and be guided by a highly regarded leader from the Kiwaro community of Waorani, Jose Nenquimo. Biologist and botanist Nick Ovenden will also accompany the tour. His organisation yakum.org is working hard in collaboration with Amazon tribes to further reforestation and cultural self determination.
This is an opportunity to understand and contribute to a new balance, an adventure where you can fly the cosmos with a Jaguar Visionario, breathe the rich air, and drink with the trees.
– Brigid Mary Prain tweet
For more information on the Waorani Tours visit ouramazontreasure.com.