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Title is a critical first step to protecting Wounaan rainforests

  • Collectively-titled communities are legally recognized and have greater capacity to protect themselves from illegal logging and deforestation.  They can plan for a more secure future. 

  • Three Wounaan communities have received collective title since 2012.
  • Six more to go. 




Native Future sends U.S.-based international human rights lawyer, Professor Leonardo Alvarado to Rio Hondo, Platanares and Majé. His recommendations lead to the design of the Wounaan Land Tenure project.


Native Future supports Economic & Environmental Study of Wounaan communities comparing impacts of Wounaan land use to those of colonists.


Higher Education Scholar, Leonides Quiroz successfully defends his thesis graduating from Law School and becoming the first Wounaan lawyer.


Ian Bell of Diving Bell Productions and Native Future volunteer Cameron Ellis create the short film, La Trocha, that tells the story of the stand-off between Wounaan and illegal loggers in 2012 that resulted in the death of Platanares Chief, Aquilio Opua.


Native Future is a sponsor of the 10th Wounaan National Congress in Maach P’öbör, and its traditional dance competition

Professional journalism and social media training and technical assistance increases media attention to Wounaan land rights issues. Multiple events are covered by national and international press


Titles of two communities – Puerto Lara and Caña Blanca – approved.

Panama passes Law 72 .

Applications for collective title to Rio Hondo, Platanares and Majé are ready for submission.

Native Future volunteers and Wounaan map the boundaries of Rio Hondo and Platanares.

Higher Education Scholar Leonides Quiroz testifies before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In response to the stagnation in titling and increasing challenges to Wounaan land rights, Native Future launches the  Wounaan Land Rights Program.



Native Future volunteer, Cameron Ellis, trains a team of Wounaan to use GPS and develop maps of the boundaries of their communities, in the process mapping the Wounaan community of Cemaco.

Native Future volunteer, Allen Turner, works with the FUNDEPW to develop a communications plan.


April 8th, 400 Wounaan march in Panama City to  protest for land titles, where they met with government officials and delivered a letter to the President of Panama


Native Future and Wounaan National Congress launch Jẽb Jua Choog K׳Ap׳Λ Wënλrraag with US Forest Service International Programs  to support Wounaan communities to protect and restore their forests and the non-timber forest products on which their livelihoods depend.

Native Future celebrates 10 years of partnership with Wounaan helping to secure their land rights and protect their way of life

Wounaan Embera community of Arimae receives collective title. The third of twelve Wounaan communities to receive legal recognition of their territory

Native Future launches the Wounaan Bird Count to communicate the biodiversity conservation Wounaan have practiced for generations.


Legal Training & Strategy

Leonides Quiroz testifying at a hearing of the Inter American Commission of Human Rights

Our initial achievement was assisting Leonides Quiroz in attending law school. He was the first Wounaan from his village to attend law school. To this day he serves his people, leading the collective-titling process and advocating for their rights to the government of Panama.
We continue to support Wounaan education and professional development, seeking to increase local capacity to defend their land rights.

Our Wounaan partners have now launched a legal strategy aimed at securing collective titles for the 6 communities outside of the Comarca that do not have the legal protection that comes with land titles. This leaves them vulnerable to illegal logging and the invasion of their lands.


To date, Wounaan have filed denuncias or official complaints through the Ministry of the Environment (MiAmbiente) that have led to fines rectifying more than $175,000 worth of damages, and the removal of officials accused of facilitating illegal land grabs. 128 hectares of land have been inspected by government officials and cases involving Indigenous land rights are moving through Panama's court system for the first time in the country's history.


MiAmbiente is taking notice, with plans to construct a new office dedicated to preventing illegal logging and invasion of Indigenous lands in the area of Majé-Chiman.

Since 2011, we have been helping our Indigenous partners communicate their issues to a Panamanian and global audience.

Click here for press, video and other media on Wounaan land rights.

Wounaan Congress Facebook Page


By Jim O'Donnell and Cullen Heater

With help from U.S. organizations, Panama’s Indigenous people are using satellite images and other technologies to identify illegal logging and incursions by ranchers on their territory. But spotting the violations is the easy part — getting the government to act is far harder.

Read the full article at Yale Environment 360.

La Trocha de Platanares


The story of the stand-off between Wounaan and illegal loggers in 2012

Our Work is not Done

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