MC: In your community women are heard. In your opinion, in our society, women are not taken into consideration that much. Are these your thoughts?
NN: Yes! At the beginning of times, women were the ones who had the last word, they made decisions at war or regarding inner and external conflicts. Men just execute orders but leadership belonged to women. Men did not give orders; no way!
MC: According to you: What do governments do to try stopping you?
NN: I say that because they do not accept our petitions. When we go to court they sometimes ignore us. Governments wait until the next new president so that we are weaker and easier to manipulate. They are wrong. We will resist.
MC: What makes you sad?
NN: Many members of the new generation – even some Wao people who have a degree and do not come to their hometown to help their brothers. I also grieve because some Wao are not speaking Wao Tededo but only Spanish. When they discover another culture they think their tribes have no value, they wrongly assume that money is the only important thing. Individualism takes precedence over community and that’s when they just care only about themselves not their families and communities. It is the saddest thing I have ever experienced. My daughter is five years old and I teach her our language and to make handcrafts. I also show her how to eat healthy. We also sing a lot!
I am sure one day she would like to study but it is a plus to have this traditional knowledge, to know where she comes from, who was this little girl; to know her Wao Story. Few Waorani are actually qualified. I did not go to a university, I speak Spanish and not so well, but I can manage on my own.
MC: What is your daughter´s name?
NN: Her name is “Daime”, which means “Rainbow of the Forest.”
MC: You said: “ Everything that matters in life, has a song” What song do you recall at this moment?
NN: We express ourselves rather by singing than by talking. I will sing you the song with which I wake up my daughter in the morning. It is from our ancestors and it is about defending our land to have clean water…
[She chants a soft and beautiful melody… For a few seconds I feel my own grandmother´s presence. The sun is shining and I feel safe, in the middle of the woods. I can smell the honey made by the bees; hear the birds flying, the sound of rustling leaves; the sound of water tumbling… Now I am in Nemonte´s world. I feel at peace and free… Suddenly I recall the words of the poem by Maya Angelou:
“The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”
I feel a strange sense of being set free myself…
MC: Thanks, Nemo
NN: Waponi …[Thanks], María
Looking at her I feel one with the rivers and the oceans and they murmur to me. “Nemo is the only indigenous woman that dies on her feet.” I join her in her commitment and we pray: “Monito Ome Goronte Enamai.”
* Our land is not for sale!
About photographer Mitch Anderson: Founder and Executive Director, Amazon Frontlines, Mr Anderson has spent the past fifteen years supporting the struggles of indigenous people across the Americas. In 2011, he moved to Ecuador’s northern Amazon to begin a clean water project with the indigenous communities living downriver from contaminating oil operations. Through building nearly 1000 water systems in over 50 indigenous villages, Mitch supported the creation of the Ceibo Alliance, an indigenous movement for land, life, and cultural survival in the western Amazon. Mr Anderson has a 4 year old daughter, whose name in the Waorani language means “rainbow”.