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Articles About Panama Tours And Travel | Indigenous Panama

Today eight indigenous tribes are officially recognized in Panama, representing about ten percent of the country's population. Panama was once home to as many as two million indigenous people, but as in other Latin American countries, fell victim to warfare and disease.

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More About Panama's Indigenous Peoples

About The Eight Indigenous Tribes Officially Recognized In Panama
The Kuna, Embera and Wounaan all arrived in what is now Panama from Colombia and live in Panama's far eastern regions though some Embera have moved to live along the Chagres River near Panama City. The Ngobe, Bugle, Naso (or Teribe), Bribri and Bokata were westerly tribes and today live in the provinces towards the western border with Costa Rica.
Illiteracy and poverty rates are high among the indigenous populations even though most tribes have embraced contact with the outside world. To better their economic conditions, some tribes sell high-quality craft products in domestic markets and abroad and are working with environmental organizations to develop eco-tourism projects and Panama tours that cater to international visitors.
In 1991, on the 500th anniversary of the beginning of European invasions of the Americas, indigenous groups from both continents first met in the Kuna Yala. Their goal was to form a united front in holding on to what was rightfully theirs and to increase their clout in the government decisions that affect their peoples. Since then, the National Coordinating Organization for Indigenous People in Panama (COONAPIP) has continued its drive to link advocacy efforts for indigenous rights.
The indigenous tribes of Panama believe that property is communally owned and over many decades have sought official delineation of their homelands and autonomy from the government of Panama. When Panama approved a new constitution in 1972, it contained a provision stating that comarcas, or autonomous reservations, should be established to protect the country's indigenous people. It has been a slow contentious process to implement the provision. To date, comarcas have been established for the Kunas, the Embera-Wounaans and the Ngobe-Bugles. The Nasos fight on.
A complicating factor in the fight over indigenous rights is Panama's move to decrease its dependence on foreign energy sources. It has built or has plans for ninety hydroelectric plants. Since the country's indigenous tribes live along waterways, they will be most affected by the country's ambitious plans. The controversy has rallied support from some fifty indigenous and environmental organizations throughout the world to help the tribes fight their re-location and the flooding of their land. For the most part, the government and hydroelectric companies have been unsuccessful in convincing the indigenous tribes that this non-polluting source of energy is in their best interests.
Given the limited geography of the isthmus, it is remarkable that these tribes have been able to sustain a traditional life style. The experiences of visitors on Panama tours are enriched by observing the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous populations in different areas of the country. For more information about Panama's major tribes, see our articles, "The Kuna Yala," and those on the Kuna, Embera-Wounaan, Ngobe-Bugle and Naso people of Panama.


The International Ecotourism Society Leave No Trace American Whitewater Ecuadoran Rivers Institute Adventure Travel Trade Association KEXP 90.3FM Seattle International Galapagos Tour Operators Association Washington Wilderness Coalition Headwaters Institute La Pagina en la Puerta (The Page in the Door) Cascadia Wildlands Project
International Rivers
National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth 2009 National Geographic Traveler -  Tours of a Lifetime 2011 World Wildlife Fund - 50 years of environmental conservation




General Panama Articles
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
The Birds of Panama
The Red Frogs of Panama
The Magnificent Coral of Panama
Surfing in Panama
Surfing the Caribbean Coast of Panama
Surfing the Pacific Coast of Panama
Snorkeling & Diving in Panama
Snorkeling & Diving in Pacific Panama
Snorkeling in the San Blas Islands
Snorkeling & Diving in Bocas del Toro
Panama's Marine Turtles
Saving The Marine Turtles of Panama
The Leatherback Turtles of Panama
The Hawksbill Turtles of Panama
The Olive Ridley Turtles of Panama
The Green Turtles of Panama
Whale Watching Around Panama
Whales on Tour in Panama
Indigenous Peoples of Panama
Indigenous Panama
The Kuna People of Panama
The Kuna Yala
The Embera-Wounaan People of Panama
The Ngobe-Bugle People of Panama
The Naso People of Panama
Panama's Islands
The Caribbean Islands of Western Panama
The Caribbean Islands of Central and Eastern Panama
The Pacific Islands of Eastern Panama
The Pacific Islands of Central and Western Panama
About the Panama Canal
French Dreams of a Panama Canal
The French Building of the Panama Canal
Working and Dying on the French Panama Canal Construction Project
The American Building of the Panama Canal
Working on the American Panama Canal Project
Diplomacy and the Start of America's Control of the Panama Canal
Diplomacy and the End of US Control of the Panama Canal