The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world's foremost award for grassroots environmental heroes, recognizing those who fight for the environment - often at great personal cost. The prize is given by the Goldman Environmental Foundation to six recipients every year. Those whose stories are told on this page are all Goldman prizewinners.
 
Yosepha Alomang, an elderly leader of the Amungme people of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, was tortured for six weeks, and held for a week without food and drink in a cell knee-deep in water and human excrement, after questioning local mining practices. Mines in her area - one of the most biologically diverse places on earth - have destroyed the rainforest, polluted rivers and displaced entire communities. Despite her mistreatment, she continued to speak out and succeeded in getting a governmental investigation into the practices.
 
 

Harrison Ngau Laing, a Dayak tribesman from Sarawak in Malaysia, led his people in a blockade of logging camps to try to stop the felling of their forests, which were being cut down more rapidly in Sarawak than anywhere else on earth. For his efforts, he was jailed and put under house arrest for almost two years. Awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize in 1990, he used the prize money to stand for a seat in the Malaysian Parliament. He won a seat that same year, ousting the Deputy Minister for Public Works. Today, as the programme coordinator for a legal resource centre, he continues to fight against deforestation and for the rights of his people.

 

Benito Kuwaru'wa is one of the highly traditional U'wa people who live high in the cloud forests of Colombia. The U'wa have had very little contact with the outside world. They believe that oil is the blood of the earth, and that pumping it out is like killing one's own mother. In 1992, a major petroleum company tried to explore for oil on their territory. Kuwaru'wa campaigned against these operations and - with 5,000 of his people - threatened to commit mass suicide if oil was ever extracted. In July 1997, he was beaten by armed and hooded men and thrown into a river to drown. He survived the attack and gained a limited victory over the oil company.

 
         
 

JoAnn Tall, a Native American belonging to the Oglala Lakota tribe, lives on a reservation in the poorest county in the entire United States. Guided by prophetic dreams and spiritual experiences, she became an environmental activist - despite being crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and the mother of eight. She defeated plans to build both a nuclear weapons testing site and a waste dump and incinerator on Native American lands.

 

Luis Macas, a Quechua Indian from the Andean highlands in Ecuador, led a general strike of more than a million indigenous people in his country in a campaign for recognition of their rights. As a result, the Government granted 148 indigenous communities legal title to almost 1.25 million hectares of Amazonia, the largest single return of land in the Amazon. In 1996 he became the first indigenous person ever to be elected to the Ecuadorian National Congress.

 
         
 

Eileen Kampakuta Brown and
Eileen Wani Wingfield
, both Australian Aboriginal elders in their 70s, led their communities in a campaign to fight the proposed construction of a national nuclear waste dump on their lands in the South Australian desert. Despite their failing health, the two women fought tirelessly until the Australian Government abandoned the plans in 1994.

     
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