Defending Eden shares the story of a changing culture and an imperiled ecosystem. Yasuni National Park of the Eastern Ecuadorian Amazon is under attack from the encroaching oil industry. This biologically diverse and rich ecosystem has historically been safeguarded by the Waorani, a hunter gatherer tribe that lived isolated and sustainably in the rainforest until missionary contact in the 1950’s. Now, with their land and lifestyle under attack, Waorani students are collecting and recording the traditional knowledge of their elders to shape their future and preserve their culture and homeland.

 

With poor resources for education, and a process of assimilation that has increasingly separated them from their traditional lifestyle, it is not easy for the Waorani to speak out against industrialization. Unwilling to accept defeat, a small group of Waorani youth are taking matters into their own hands by creating an extensive wildlife guide in their native language, Wao Terero. In order to do this, they must consult their last remaining elders, the only living ambassadors of Waorani history. Using the knowledge they collect, they will develop a curriculum for their schooling system, which they will use to monitor their resources and save their little-known way of life.

 

This feature-length documentary follows the Waorani students on their journey to find their elders and record their knowledge. Starting in the progressive Waorani community of Kewediono, the film embarks on a journeys deeper into the rainforest with the students and their elders as they recall the history, mythology and wisdom of their land and culture.