Amazonian Indigenous leaders share Earth Day video message with the world

April 22, 2020

Leaders from Amazon Sacred Headwaters region deliver unified message: ‘Caring for the forests is caring for your life and future generations’

ECUADOR AND PERU — They come from different countries and different nationalities, but this Earth Day, Indigenous leaders from a region known as the Amazon Sacred Headwaters are putting forth a unified message to the world that “caring for the forests of the Amazon is caring for your life and future generations.” Home to half a million Indigenous peoples from more than 20 nationalities, including uncontacted peoples, the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region spans 74 million acres and is considered to be the most biodiverse region in the Amazon Basin, and likely the world. 

Messages from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters – Earth Day 2020 from Stand on Vimeo.

Right now, Indigenous federations and nationalities in the region are fighting against the urgent threat of expanded oil drilling. More than 200,000 square miles (an area the size of Texas) are at risk of being opened up for oil development, which is a gateway to forest fragmentation and future deforestation.

The Indigenous leaders in the video are part of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative, an Indigenous-led effort working to advance a different model for the Amazon region. The initiative is grounded in ecological stewardship and cultural vibrancy and the expansion of Indigenous rights and territories, instead of the business-as-usual models of extraction that often don’t benefit local communities and leave behind a toxic legacy.

Despite facing tremendous pressure from expansions of oil drilling, mining, palm oil, logging, big agriculture, and other forms of extractivism, this Earth Day message from Indigenous leaders is one of hope that connects us to our shared humanity and highlights the opportunity to work together to protect the Amazon. These messages are especially relevant given the recent pipeline ruptures in Ecuador threatening Indigenous communities in the Coca and Napo river basins, and the news that COVID-19 has reached the Amazon and is putting Indigenous communities at risk. (Read the statement in solidarity with indigenous peoples facing the coronavirus and the statement calling for an immediate moratorium on oil drilling in the Amazon.)

“Caring for the forests of the Amazon, is caring for your life and future generations,” says Rosa Cerda, Vice President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE).

“Indigenous people defend the forests. Let’s defend the defendants,” says Jorge Perez, President of the Regional Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO).

“The Amazon Basin and the Indigenous peoples’ territories are a guarantee for the global climate equilibrium. Therefore, we need an Amazonia alive to protect humanity,” says Tuntiak Katan, Vice Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA). 


As part of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative, allied organizations — including Amazon Watch,, Pachamama Alliance, and Fundacion Pachamama — and indigenous federations in Ecuador and Peru — including AIDESEP, COICA, CONFENIAE, ORPIO, and GTANW — are working to draw global attention and support to halt industrial extractivism and protect the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region. 

In a declaration calling for alternative forms of development rooted in ecological stewardship, indigenous leaders from the region have proclaimed their ancestral territories are under immediate threat from oil drilling, mining, and other industrial scale projects and urged governments and investors to act now to halt approvals and financing of new projects. 

In December 2019 at COP 25 in Madrid, the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative coordinated an international press conference with Indigenous leaders from the Amazon and released an in-depth report that captured global media attention and spotlights the threats facing this ecological and cultural gem. The report highlights how California, China, and other countries are complicit in its destruction. 

Indigenous leaders featured in the video include: 

  • TUNTIAK KATAN, Vice Coordinator of COICA (Amazon Basin Indigenous Organization)
  • LIZARDO CAUPER PEZO, President of AIDESEP (Peruvian Indigenous Federation) 
  • SANDRA TIKUP, Director of Territories, CONFENIAE (Ecuadorian Indigenous Federation)
  • JORGE PEREZ, President, ORPIO (Peruvian Indigenous Federation)
  • DELFINA CATIP TAWAN, Leader of Women’s Programs, AIDESEP (Peruvian Indigenous Federation)
  • ROSA CERDA, Vice President, CONFENIAE (Ecuadorian Amazonian Indigenous Federation)
  • MARLON VARGAS, President, CONFENIAE (Ecuadorian Amazonian Indigenous Federation)

For more information on the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative, visit (English) and (Spanish).


Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager,,, +1 510 858 9902

Interviews available in Spanish and English