Native Future is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization rooted in Peace Corps service, conservation, 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 youth education.
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 communities in Panama. They got to know firsthand 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 its 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 small but dedicated staff along with the support of a core of volunteers.
Meet The Team
Marsha Kellogg Executive Director
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. Since 2014, Native Future’s direct support to the Wounaan people to protect and conserve their territories has increased from $5,000 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.
Richard "Omar" Warner Chair - Board of Directors
Richard began his career with The Nature Conservancy, where over 13 years he served in many leadership roles, including Director of Latin American Science Programs. Over the next two decades, Richard worked in 25 countries, supporting Indigenous community rights, nature conservation, tropical forest management, sustainable agriculture, and watershed management. Richard has traveled to every province of Panama and visited communities of nearly all Panamanian indigenous cultures. Through his work with Native Future, Richard is giving back to the indigenous people who shared with him their incredible knowledge of their forests and showed him warm hospitality.
Vice-Chair - Board of Directors
The conservation and management of natural resources cannot happen effectively without the ownership and buy-in of the people who have been its custodians for years. This tenet has been at the core of Peter’s work in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe for the last 45 years. Peter works with Native Future because they share this principle in the approaches and tools used in their work with indigenous communities in Panama. Peter works with Native Future because he is convinced that Native Future can help the indigenous communities of Panama obtain voice and agency.
Deputy Director - Board of Directors
Sara joined Native Future in 2016 to redesign and build the organization’s website. After five years of increasing involvement in day-to-day operations, she chose to serve on the Native Future Board. She values the support Native Future provides to Indigenous communities to help them lead the process of natural resource management and forest governance on their own terms. Sara has a background in qualitative research, project management, and international development and has spent five years living, working, and studying in Latin America, including in Panama. She is currently a senior project director for Adelphi Research.
Mecca Luster Treasurer - Board of Directors
A 2016 graduate of Howard University, Mecca served in the Peace Corps in Panama, working as an Agriculture Business Advisor. As a volunteer, she co-wrote and co-managed two grants alongside the local governing body of a small indigenous town in Panama. Mecca currently works in corporate communications and specializes in environmental and social governance.
Richard Warms Secretary - Board of Directors
Rich is professor of anthropology at Texas State University. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso and has conducted research on ethnicity, commerce, religion, and colonialism in Mali. He is the author of Cultural Anthropology (13th edition), Culture Counts (5th edition), Anthropological Theory: an Introductory History (7th edition), and other works in anthropology. Rich is committed to the supporting indigenous communities as they defend their rights, seek justice, and determine their futures. He is deeply concerned with safeguarding the environment and biodiversity. Native Future focuses on supporting indigenous people in one of the world’s most diverse and threatened environments.
Julian Dendy Director - Board of Directors
Since living in Costa Rica in a study abroad program/ naturalist guide volunteer stay more than 20 years ago, Julian has been moved to study and conserve the wonderful worlds of tropical forests. Their incredible store of biodiversity and alarming rates of degradation and disappearance still strike me as the most poignant and irreversible modern problem we face. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, Julian’s acceptance as a family member and resident in the Wounaan community of Rio Hondo was the most meaningful experience of his life and led him to realize that supporting indigenous land and natural resource rights is clearly the most efficient and practical means of ensuring tropical forests continue to exist.