Indigenous leader—and 2013 Goldman Prize winner—“Mama Aleta” turned to a traditional practice to bring her people together and protect the Indonesian forest.

The voice on the other end of the line speaks a language few outside Indonesia have heard. But mining companies have heard—loud and clear—what Aleta Baun has to say.“The forest is like the dress for the earth. It covers the world. Don’t destroy nature, the forest, because it’s like destroying the clothes; it’s like making the earth become naked,” says Mama Aleta, a respectful nickname for the 50-year-old mother of three, who became the unlikely leader of a movement to halt destructive marble mining in West Timor, Indonesia.For her work, Mama Aleta was among the winners of this year’s Goldman Prize, the world’s largest prize for grassroots environmentalists, announced April 15.Mama Aleta is Mollo, one of eight indigenous tribes on the island of Timor. From October 2006 to November 2007 she organized a community occupation of mines near her home village of Kuanoel, using a peaceful, traditional practice as a tool for protest: weaving.Like generations before, the Mollo herd cattle and tend corn, rice, oranges, and other crops in a mountainous landscape threaded with forests where women gather plants for m …

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