Our Work

Native Future is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that recognizes and helps preserve the inextricable link between indigenous people and the ecosystems in which they live. Native peoples throughout the Americas are rapidly losing the lands they depend on for their livelihood and their culture.

Since 2004, Native Future has worked with the Wounaan of Panama and two other Panamanian indigenous groups, Ngäbe and Buglé, to support their education and protect their lands.

Native Education provides scholarships and educational opportunities to indigenous students and leaders.

  • It began as a Peace Corps project, in 2001, helping three Ngäbe and Buglé students go to high school.
  • Today, 120 native elementary, high school and university students are in school with our help.
  • Our university scholarships prepare students for careers which give back to their communities.
  • Scholarships reward participation and develop leadership in Wounaan, Ngäbe and Buglé community groups, such as the El Jacinto Agricultural Cooperative and the Wounaan National Congress.

Wounaan Land Rights helps Wounaan communities secure legal title to their lands and protect their forests. We support education and training, technical and legal assistance, communications, equipment and the work of Wounaan leaders who are advocating for their rights daily.

  • We put the first Wounaan, Leonides Quiroz, through law school. His testimony helped pass Panama Law 72, a special procedure for collective title of native land.
  • We have helped Wounaan to digitally map their territories, and document and communicate Wounaan efforts to protect their land from ranching and illegal logging which clear cuts rainforests and steals Wounaan natural resources.
  • These efforts contributed to government approval of three Wounaan collective titles: Puerto Lara, Caña Blanca and Arimae.

Arimae exemplifies what’s at stake. Since its founding in 1960, the community has lost almost 90% of their original territory or approximately 180,000 hectares of forest – an area half the size of Rhode Island – to cattle ranching and farmers. Today, Arimae collectively owns the remaining core of their land. Six Wounaan communities still need titles!

Native Future is a non-profit organization rooted in Peace Corps service, conservation and indigenous rights, and the dedication of many volunteers. With your help we will continue to support Wounaan land rights, the stewardship and protection of their forest resources, and the education of our indigenous friends.