Solidarity from the Amazon to Standing Rock

Indigenous leaders from Ecuadorian Amazon Travel to Stand with the #NoDAPL Movement

Amazon Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network

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International indigenous delegation in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux

Indigenous leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon traveled to North Dakota this week to share with the Standing Rock Sioux and the #NoDAPL movement their solidarity and personal experience in successfully defending their sacred sites and water by expelling oil companies from their ancestral rainforest territory.

Franco Viteri, Nina Gualinga, and Eriberto Gualinga from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, accompanied by Leo Cerda, Kichwa from Tena and Amazon Watch’s Ecuador Field Coordinator, arrived in North Dakota on Monday, joining over 200 tribal nations that have traveled to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux in their fight against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on their ancestral territory.

The pipeline construction has destroyed sacred sites, an estimated 27 burial grounds, and would likely contaminate Lake Oahe, the primary drinking water and fishing source for the Standing Rock Sioux, and the Missouri River. The pipeline plan was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers without properly consulting with the Sioux, as required by federal law.

“We came from the Amazon rainforest with a message of strength and solidarity for the Sioux,” said Franco Viteri, Kichwa leader from Sarayaku and former president of Confeniae (Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon). “In the name of all the children, elders, women, the birds, the large and small animals that depend on water to survive, the Kichwa people extend a sacred greeting of respect for nature and for the life of all the peoples of the North, because we know that if water is destroyed, life on earth will end.”

"It's a powerful moment to be able to stand beside my brothers and sisters from the Ecuadorian Amazon and know that we are not alone in the struggle against fossil fuel development,” said Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network and an organizer of the #NoDAPL movement. “It's important that the world understands this fight is about much more than stopping just one oil pipeline; it’s about all of us standing together from the North to the South and around the world to keep fossil fuels in the ground and create a just transition to a renewable energy economy."

From Standing Rock to Sarayaku, indigenous peoples are on the front lines of struggles for land and natural resources, nonviolently and courageously defending their sacred sites, territorial rights, and water resources for all life and future generations. For their part, the Sarayaku have successfully kept oil development off their ancestral territory of 135,000 hectares, and in 2012 won an historic indigenous rights victory when an Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision determined that the Ecuadorian government was guilty of rights violations for its authorization of oil exploration and militarization of Sarayaku lands without consulting the community.

For this reason the Sarayaku traveled to Standing Rock. As Viteri explained, “My people are very conscious, because of our history and our tradition, just like the tribes here, of our connection with nature, with Mother Earth; we know that this is what gives balance to life here on earth. The transnational corporations, like those trying to build this oil pipeline, are blind because they don’t understand the language of nature.”

The people of Sarayaku are known as the “Pueblo del Medio Dia,” or people of the Zenith, which stems from an ancient prophecy that Sarayaku would be a pillar of territorial, cultural, and spiritual defense, a beacon of light as strong as the noonday sun at its zenith. As threats continue for new oil development on their territory, the Sarayaku are advancing their visionary Kawsak Sacha or "Living Forest" proposal as an alternative; the proposal calls for legal protection of the “Living Forest”, with recognition as a Sacred Territory and the Biological and Cultural Patrimony of the Kichwa People in Ecuador, free from oil, mineral and lumber extraction. The Sarayaku are a leading voice in the global movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

The September 14th press conference at Standing Rock with Franco Viteri, Nina Gualinga (Kichwa youth representative from Sarayaku), Kandi Mosset, and David Archambault II (Standing Sioux Tribal Chairman) was organized by Indigenous Environmental Network and Amazon Watch.


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