Native Future is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization rooted in Peace Corps service, conservation, and Indigenous rights, and the dedication of many volunteers. We partner with indigenous communities in Panama to protect their land rights, support the stewardship of their rainforest ecosystems, and educate their youth.
Our story begins in 2000, with Peace Corps Volunteers Sara Archbald, Zachary McNish and Julian Dendy and their experiences living and working in Wounaan and Ngäbe Buglé villages. They got to know first hand the often-insurmountable challenges their native counterparts face daily trying to protect their lands from deforestation or just sending their children to school. When Sara, Zach and Julian returned to the United States, their service to their host communities did not end. Founded in 2004, Native Future is an extension of their commitment to the well-being and future of Panama's indigenous peoples.
Today, that spirit of volunteerism and service still drives our mission. Native Future is led by a corps of dedicated volunteers and an Executive Director.
Board of Directors
In 2014, Marsha took an active role in developing Native Future’s work with the Wounaan people of Panama. A participatory planner and facilitator by training with grant writing experience, her leadership has resulted in the design and implementation of Native Future’s Wounaan Bird Count, Native Stewardship, and Territorial Monitoring programs. She maintains long-term partnerships with the Wounaan National Congress, the Foundation for the Development of the Wounaan People, the US Forest Service International Programs, and the International Conservation Fund of Canada, to name a few. Native Future’s direct support to the Wounaan people to protect and conserve their territories has increased from $5,000 in 2014 to $150,000 in 2022.
Before joining Native Future, Marsha led participatory project planning and carried out sustainable forestry and environmental assessments on United States Agency for International Development-funded projects throughout the Americas and in West Africa. She has been privileged to work with and learn from the native peoples of those countries, such as Huarani of Ecuador, Maya of Guatemala, Boki of Nigeria, and Mescalero Apache of New Mexico. Marsha first learned about the deforestation of the Darien and its impacts on Indigenous peoples as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama (1992 - 1994).
In the words of author and academic David Suzuki, Indigenous people are the best bet for protecting our planet “because in most cases, they are fighting through the value lenses of their culture.” Marsha concurs and takes great joy and satisfaction in supporting Indigenous communities to protect and conserve their territories and revitalize their culture.