Indigenous elders play a key role in the protection of their culture and livelihoods. A death of an elder threatens global conservation efforts since Indigenous livelihoods and knowledge represent key elements to understand and fight environmental degradation. This is the story of Nenkihui Bay, a Waorani (or Huaorani) traditional leader and elder, a Pikenani (in Wao Tededo language), who died in May 2020 in the Waorani territory. In Waorani culture, Pikenanis are local figures of authority, territorial guardians against external threats, and teachers of traditional knowledge related to environment, cultural laws, and livelihoods. The Upper Amazon has important ecological functions for global ecosystems and the atmosphere. The Waorani have gained significant international attention in recent years for their environmental resistance to oil drilling and Indigenous marginalization in the region. Recently Time magazine recognized 34-year-old Waorani activist Nemonte Nenquimo as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020, for her leadership in a landmark ruling protecting the Waorani’s ancestral territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Waorani are Ecuador’s most recently contacted Indigenous group. Starting in the late 1950s, missionaries and oil exploration workers contacted the Waorani in the rainforest, leading to decades of oil exploitation, territorial displacement, and cultural colonization (Cabodevilla, 2010; Rival, 2015). Today, some 2,000 Waorani remain in their Amazon territory in northeastern Ecuador, including some Waorani tribes that continue living in voluntary isolation in the Zona Intangible. See related: TIME’s list of 100 most influential people in 2020 includes Indigenous Waorani leader Map of the Waorani territory…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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