The latest from Native Future

Wounaan National Congress 2017

Every four years Wounaan elect their national leadership. This election year, with an overwhelming majority of votes, Chenier Carpio was elected President and Diogracio Puchicama, Cacique (Chief). On April 18th, the elected Wounaan leadership and their cabinet were inaugurated during a ceremony at the University of Panama.

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Passing the staff at the inauguration of the newly elected Wounaan Cacique and President, 2017

Meet our New Volunteers!

Thank you Sara Taylor, Kendra Becenti, Jed Glosenger and Robert Mesta for your time and talents!

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.

Native Future Receives Grant for Wounaan Natural Resource Management

We are happy to announce a new partnership with the US Forest Service (USFS) International Programs to support up to seven Wounaan communities to assess their natural resource management needs and identify and carry out actions to protect and manage at least one non-timber forest product (NTFP). Communities will also receive technical assistance, training and materials to reforest and restore their forests.

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Help Seed a Wounaan Christmas Bird Count

Native Future is asking for your help to start-up a Christmas Bird Count with Wounaan communities in Wounaan territory. Your donation will help to cover the initial costs of travel and logistics of CBC expertise and volunteers, as well as that of equipment and training, to start preparing with Wounaan for a Christmas Bird Count (CBC). We need to raise at least $10,000 over this 2016 – 2017 CBC season to set a foundation for a Wounaan CBC in 2017 – 2018. Can you help?

Photo compliments Miguel "Siu", Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos.

Nesting Harpy Eagle. Photo compliments Miguel “Siu”, Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos.

Why a Wounaan Christmas Bird Count?

One objective of the Wounaan Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is to bring global attention to the avian biodiversity and hundreds of thousands of acres of Darien tropical rainforest Wounaan have been conserving for generations, but today are at risk of deforestation. The CBC will engage Wounaan of all ages to observe, document and report their avifauna in their territories and in their native language, Woun meu, and build their capacity to host birdwatching tours on native lands in the future. Wounaan leaders are enthusiastic about the potential multiple benefits of a CBC to not only the protection of their land rights and forests, but also their cultural and linguistic survival, including connections with their oral traditions.


Master weaver Milda Teucama and her artwork.

Wounaan of Panamá are an indigenous peoples numbering a little over 7,000 and living in 17 small villages scattered throughout the eastern rainforests of the Majé and Darién regions. Their traditional lands are well over half a million acres of intact rainforest, including coastal and mangrove ecosystems in Panama and the Americas, and are home to more than 577 species of birds, at least 60 of which are restricted range species. In addition to being a major center for unique birds, it is also home to vulnerable and endangered wildlife, including the Chocó tamarin, the tapir, the giant anteater, the ocelot, the jaguar and the Harpy Eagle.

For decades, Wounaan have been struggling to protect their lands and forests from illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and deforestation. For twelve years, Native Future has been helping Wounaan protect their forests and secure their land rights. The Wounaan Christmas Bird Count is one way we can help.

Mangroves to mountains, Wounaan territory is some of the most intact ecosystems in Darien, Panama.

Mangroves to mountains, Wounaan territory is some of the most intact ecosystems in Darien, Panama.

How you can help.

This year your tax-deductible donation to Native Future and the CBC will be matched by dedicated donors, Peter Hetz and Marianne Kuitert, and Michael Smith up to a $25,000 goal. And with donations of $100 or more you will receive a gift book – The Best Baskets in the World – an engaging exploration of the fine art of Wounaan and Emberá weavers.

Financial support is just one way to help this effort. We are also accepting donations of used, functioning equipment such as binoculars, scopes and cameras, smartphones and iPads loaded with e-bird, dry bags or other protective cases. Please contact us at if you have items you want to pass on. Your in-kind donation may also be tax-deductible.

Finally, can you help us spread the word? Please do share this webpage with any interested people, groups, or businesses you believe would be interested in this endeavor.

Native Future RPCV Challenge!

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers  – Wounaan need your help! Join with Native Future RPCVs to raise $3,000 for Wounaan Land Rights.  Joe Torres, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, former Peace Corps APCD and Acting CD in Panama, and a Native Future supporter, is challenging the RPCV community to triple his pledge of $1,000 toward the overall $25,000 goal this year and help our Wounaan friends protect their forests and future!

And we’re almost half way there!  Other dedicated Native Future RPCVs – Marsha Kellogg, Zachary McNish, Sara Archbald, Julian Dendy, Janice Jorgensen, Allen Turner – are taking up Joe’s challenge and invite you to join us!

How can I help?

  1. Thank you for your donation today and helping us meet the goal. Please write “RPCV (country, years)” in the Pay Pal note or on the memo of your check.
  2. Share this with fellow RCPVs who’d be interested in joining our community and cause!
  3. Are you interested in volunteering with us? We have many fun and interesting jobs to fit your talents and time and that help our indigenous friends in Panama.   Write to us!

What will my help do?

Since 2004, Native Future’s purpose has been to help the Wounaan people of Panama gain control over their traditional lands and therefore, their future.  Our programs bring technical and legal assistance, education and training, equipment and direct support to Wounaan communities and leadership to help them protect, restore, and sustainably develop their forest resources.  Read here for more information.

Who are we?

Native Future was born of Peace Corps Panama service in Wounaan, Ngäbe and Buglé communities, and continues to be driven by the passion and commitment of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).  Since 2004, our work has contributed to Peace Corps’s Third Goal, promoting a better understanding of the indigenous peoples we serve on the part of Americans.


Native Future RPCVs 

Joe Torres, an APCD and Acting Country Director in Panama (1999-2002) and PTO and Country Director in the Federated States of Micronesia ( 2002-2004),  and Peace Corps Volunteer (Guatemala 1980-1982, Paraguay 1983-1984) is a founding member of Native Future and aficionado of Wounaan art.

Zachary McNish, also a founding member of Native Future served in the Wounaan community of Rio Hondo (2001-2002) and continues to support their fight for collective title to their land.

Julian Dendy, a founding member of Native Future, he also served in Rio Hondo (2001 – 2002) and in the Republic of Palau (2003-2005). Currently, Julian is a GIS Research Technician in Guam.

Sara Archbald (Panama 2000 – 2002; Colombia 1966 – 1968) is Native Future’s Native Education Coordinator and raises thousands of dollars each year to help Ngäbe, Buglé and Wounaan students get an education.

Janice Jorgensen, former Peace Corps Panama Director (1997 – 2002) and Dominican Republic PCV (1966 – 1968) joined the board of Native Future in 2006 and has been an active supporter ever since.

Marsha Kellogg, current President of Native Future served in Panama (1992 – 1994) and has been working in international sustainable development ever since, and with indigenous communities.

Allen Turner, an RPCV who served in the Dominican Republic and in Thailand, is on Native Future’s Advisory Council.  Allen  currently leads the Program for Aquatic Natural Resources Improvement—also known as Paani, the USAID-funded नेपाल पानी परियोजना—in Nepal.

Join us!

Sara Archbald and Wounaan scholarship recipients

Sara Archbald and Wounaan scholarship recipients

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 . . .