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Nemonte Nequiemo: Female Waorani Indigenous Leader & Goldman Environmental Award

Nemonte Nequiemo: Female Waorani Indigenous Leader & Goldman Environmental Award

Nemonte Nequiemo

A Native Leader from Ecuador Wins the Goldman Environmental Award

By (Global Heart | Esther Haasnoot)

Each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize is honored to recognize six heroes of the environment. Hosted by award-winning actress Sigourney Weaver, this virtual award ceremony featured Robert Redford, Danni Washington, and Lenny Kravitz and musical performances from Jack Johnson and Michael Franti.


The Goldman environmental award dates back to 1989 and is an annual award for grassroots activism in six geographical regions worldwide. This year, one of the award winners is Nemonte Nequimo, an indigenous female leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon. She was chosen for her success in protecting 500,000 hectares of the rainforest from oil exploitation.


An indigenous leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the Goldman environmental award winners. She is recognized for her brave widespread activism.

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Female Waorani Indigenous Leader Nemonte Nequimo wins the Goldman Environmental Award

The Female Indigenous Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo has made history. She helped lead a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government, which planned to sell Waorani territory to an oil company. The Waorani won. Now, Nenquimo is recognized in Time’s list of 100 most influential people of 2020. She is the only female Indigenous leader on the list this year and the second Ecuadoran ever named.

Nemonte Nequiemo
Indigenous leader Nemonte Nenquimo led a campaign and legal action that resulted in a court ruling protecting 500,000 acres of the Amazonian rainforest and Waorani territory from oil extraction in Ecuador. She is the co-founder of the Ceibo Alliance and president of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador-Pastaza (CONCONAWEP).

Guardians of the Amazon Rainforest

Despite its relatively small area, Ecuador is one of the 10 most biodiverse countries on Earth. It contains pristine Amazon rainforests with rich wildlife, complex ecosystems, and significant populations of indigenous communities. Long protectors of this territory, the Waorani people are traditional hunter-gatherers organized into small clan settlements. They are among the most recently contacted peoples—reached in 1958 by American missionaries—and number around 5,000 today. Waorani territory overlaps with Yasuni National Park, which, according to the Smithsonian, “may have more species of life than anywhere else in the world.”

Earlier Legal Victory

Since the 1960s, oil exploration, logging, and road building have had a disastrous impact on Ecuador’s primary rainforests, which now cover less than 15% of the country’s land mass. Extractive industries have increasingly driven deforestation, human rights abuses, public health crises (including spikes in rates of cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages), and negative impacts on indigenous peoples’ territories and cultures. For decades, oil companies have dumped waste into local rivers and contaminated land, while displacing indigenous people from their land.

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