The latest from Native Future

“Sorry Guys, It’s the Gals” :: La Granja El Jancinto :: Meet Jim Deveau

Reflecting on 17 years of La Granja  El  Jacinto, granting scholarships to family participants, I studied the photos taken. The role of the women is striking. Not only as helpers, cooks, weed pullers, seed planters – all important. Quiet and strong, they’ve been removing boulders to create rice/fish tanks, sharpening, hacking machetes, hauling mud and grasses to build and pack rice/fish tank walls, lugging cauldrons for miles to cook rice and beans at worksites, cutting  firewood to build the fires to cook those meals. They’re steadfast. They show up. You can count on them.

Read more of the latest from Native Future..

Bring your friends to the Basilio Perez Scholarship Fundraiser

It’s a fun party for a great cause!  Food, drink, friends and a silent auction!

Sunday, July 30, 4:00 – 6:30 pm. Portland, Maine.

Don’t miss out!  Read more…


The latest from Native Future

Where do Wounaan and Ngäbe Buglé live? :: Panama’s Indigenous by the Numbers :: Message from the President. 

Native Future works with three of Panama’s 8 tribes: Ngäbe and Buglé in the west, Wounaan in the east. Why these three tribes for Native Future? Because Returned Peace Corps Volunteers were passionate about the needs of the people they served. The Education program began with Ngäbe – Buglé in 2000 and the Land Rights program began with Wounaan in 2004. The two joined forces in 2005. Their poverty issues are equally compelling, and we’re now in our 12th year of collaborating on remarkable, sustainable solutions.

Read more of the latest from Native Future.


Native Future Newsletter May 2017

Who won Wounaan National Congress elections?  Meet the Ngäbe Buglé women in El Jacinto that keep it all going. Welcome new Native Future volunteers! Read all about it here.

Native Future Spring 2017 Newsletter

Simona Valdez and Deluvina Perez, two strong women working the El Jacinto farm for 17+ years.

Our Work

Since 2004, Native Future has worked with the Wounaan of Panamá and two other Panamanian indigenous groups, Ngäbe and the 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.

Native Future Education Director with Wounaan University Students

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 Panamá 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.
  • Today, with the support of US Forest Service International Programs, we are helping Wounaan communities to protect and restore the forest resources on which their livelihoods depend.

Deforestation of Wounaan territories. Photo by Christian Ziegler & compliments of Light Hawk, 2013.

The community of 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, and two other Wounaan communities – Puerto Lara and Caña Blanca – have received titles. Six more Wounaan territories to go!

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 stewardship and protection of their forest resources, and the education of our indigenous friends.

How can you help?

Native Future Newsletter November 2016

Check out the November 2016 newsletter with all the latest updates.










Native Future Land Rights 2015 Update

We are happy to report important gains in 2015 – the verification of Majé’s boundary by the Government of Panama, and collective title of the Wounaan Emberá community of Arimae!  Read more

Your support is making a difference. In the year ahead, we will continue to carry out activities identified in Native Future’s Wounaan Land Rights program. We will continue to help Wounaan with targeted strategic communications technical assistance, and this year, with your help, Native Future will work closely with the Wounaan National Congress to carry out leadership retreats to strengthen their capacity to organize and self-govern. The Wounaan Higher Education fund also continues to prepare future Wounaan leaders and professionals, supporting Wounaan university students studying bilingual education, journalism and public administration. We would like to see it grow.

Native Future Newsletter July 2015

Wounaan Congresso February 2015

Native Future was pleased to be invited this year to the Wounaan Congreso in the village of Maach P’öbör, located an 8-hour bus ride from Panama City on the banks of the Membrillo River in the Darien. Every 2 years, Wounaan gather with elected leaders from their many communities to share accounts of recent events, while having the opportunity to express the concerns most important to each village. There is much ritual dancing, music, and sports to lighten the agenda.

The Wounaan leadership this year met new standards by producing a financial report of the Congreso and its foundation, which was shared with village leaders – transparency is important everywhere! Rising to the top of the community concern discussed at the Congreso: EDUCATION. Elementary and junior high schools in the area seem to be meeting basic needs, although more Wounaan teachers and bilingual education are needed and Wounaan want secondary and university studies for their young people to attain professional standards. Communications, legal, business, and education studies are critical for the next generation to promote their culture and protect their lands.

Read more . . .

Native Future Newsletter November 2014

Native Future Launches “Next Generation” Wounaan Land Rights Program

Wounaan land rights are at the heart of Native Future’s mission. Since 2004, Native Future has been helping Wounaan of Panama to gain control over their traditional lands. In 2008, Native Future launched the two-year Wounaan Land Tenure Project and wrote a plan in which we envisioned, …a world, ten years from now, in which Río Hondo, Platanares, and Majé-Chimán have legal title to their traditional lands, and that title is respected and enforced by Panama. We imagine these communities continuing to manage their lands in a sustainable, productive and conservation-oriented manner, just as they have done for generations.

This vision has not changed, but the challenge has become more acute. While legal progress was made per the passage of Law 72 in 2008 and two Wounaan communities received titles in 2012, Wounaan have reported more invasions of their lands and expropriation of their natural resources. Indigenous lands are often the final vestiges of intact tropical forest in Panama (besides national parks), and where the last stands of high value tropical hardwoods can be found. Wounaan forests are targets and their trees are harvested with little if any compensation to Wounaan. Logging roads are built which just makes it easy for farmers to access Wounaan territory and clear forests for pasture on which to raise cattle and grow their crops. It is one of many examples of the need for increased Native Future commitment and the Wounaan Land Rights Program.

Read more . . .

Native Future Newsletter June 2014

Wounaan Preparing for Panama’s New Administration

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, approximately 400 Wounaan marched through the streets of Panama City, protesting government inaction and petitioning Panamanian authorities to process their land title applications. After many hours in the streets, high level government officials met with a delegation of Wounaan. The Wounaan presented their issues and demands. The principal demand was the adjudication of Rio Hondo/Platanares and Majé Chiman territories and those of Wounaan communities in the Darien. The 45 minute meeting resulted in an agreement to a second meeting on April 15, at which time they were to schedule boundary verifications of the Wounaan communities awaiting title.

Read more . . .