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Omanka Versus Oil

In 2010, the Ecuadorian government decided to open a new area of the Amazon for petroleum extraction. This land had previously been parceled out into territories, several of which were home to previously uncontacted indigenous tribes. When the government sought to consult them for approval of land auctions, many tribes, including the Waorani people, were split. Omanka, a sixty-two-year-old Waorani leader, has struggled since then to prevent oil drilling on her tribe's territory. This is her story.
In 2010, the Ecuadorian government decided to open a new area of the Amazon rainforest for petroleum extraction. This land, inhabited by seven indigenous nations, including previously uncontacted tribes, was divided into 21 bloques with a total surface area of 3.6 million hectares. In 2012, 13 of these bloques were auctioned off to international petroleum companies, and those remaining were reserved for Petroamazonas, the Ecuadorean state oil extractor. This very same year, while the process was already underway, the Ecuadorian government consulted with the Waorani people, a forest nation inhabiting the area of Yasuni National Park, for their approval of auctions of their territories. Such consultation is mandatory according to the Ecuadorian constitution and recommended by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. In this case, the negotiations divided the Waorani people. While some, tempted by the promise of jobs and profits, supported the governmental proposals, others, aware of the environmental destruction that drilling brings, opposed it.

Omanka is a sixty-two-year-old Waorani leader who, for several years, struggled to prevent oil drilling on Waorani territory. She is a daughter of a warrior, Minkaye, who helped spear and kill Christian missionaries who first attempted to establish contact with the tribe in 1956. In this book, I collect Omanka’s and her family members’ recollections of recent events in their forest. I also consider their predicament from an external perspective, taking into account politics, global capitalism, and environmental theory. Is there a good strategy for the Waorani that will let them and their forest survive and flourish?

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