Get an Unusual Trip to Panama Native Tribes and Learn How to Survive in Wildlife

There are some diverse groups of Panama native tribes. They have been playing so important role in this country. 

Originally those are seven but further is divided into four major Indian groups, they are the Kuna, the Ngöbe-Buglé (Guaymi), the Naso (Teribe)/ Bribri, and the Emberá/ Wounaan. These Panama native tribes keep maintaining lifestyle of traditional and control their government.

Profile and Historical Context of Guaymi Tribe Panama

Guaymi tribe is the most numerous indigenous people in this country (which is over 60% of the population of indigenous).

In old days, they traditionally were living in the western provinces of Bocas del Toro, Veraguas, and Chiriqui but as time went by and they need to migrateto other parts of this country to look for employment.

They used to live simple in small jungle settings. In the twentieth century, they started organizing and protecting their land and culture due to disruption by the construction of the Inter-American Highway, the spread of banana plantations, and the appropriation of their communal land.

Though the Government had published a policy to reserve for indigenous people it wasn’t implemented universally. 

It forced many leaving and joining Panama’s migrant workforce. They were usually got the lowest paid and most damaging jobs (physically).

In 1997, the Guaymi tribe was granted their reservation (comarca). But they protested the Government as they got too little of their ancestral grounds. It made many people left and lived outside the reserve. 

Up to these days, their struggling is not over yet. In May 2018, they got the Tabasará River draining for maintenance work on the dame. It left them with no source of protein.

Make a Visit to the Embera tribe of Panama

Embera tribe is a tribe open to visit. This tribe is now about 110 people. An elevated house with stairs owned by each family. 

You should never ask for electricity nor signal here since you won’t find any, but the village is super neat and clean. Before visiting this village, you need to look for a guide or a tour package (several tour operators offer this visit).

Embera tribe is living in Chagres National Park. The village can be reached by you (and your tour group) by riding in 20-foot-long dugout canoes up the well-known river, which is the San Juan de Pequeni River. 

This trip is pampering your eyes with beautiful flora and lots of birds watching you all along the way. Once arriving, you will be described anything towards it: education, how houses are built, the materials, how to cook, what to eat, etc.

Panama Tribe Facts: A True Melting Pot

The story of Panama tribe facts starts with thousands of people of African descent who came in. Ancestors from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, and Tobago were the most. 

They helped to build the canal or came as slaves brought during colonial times. These days, you can easily see the real melting pot in this country.

Spanish and France bring two major influences on the culture of Panama, both in the city or rural areas. While in the less accessible regions, there are Panama tribes left. Living their autonomous region with their language and customs.


This is the largest indigenous group in Panama. They live traditionally in the highlands and the provinces of Veraguas, Chiriqui, and the last is Bocas del Toro. They rule a high degree of political autonomy and able to protect their cultural heritage as well.

The Guna

This one is the most popular among others. They are proud of their distinctive colorful dresses and their autonomous region, located in Guna Yala (San Blas Archipelago).

Embera and Wounaan

Both live on the edge of jungles, which are in the region of Darien, the Canal Zone, and the Eastern Panama Province. They do the hunting, fishing, and farming to survive.

The Naso Tribe

They inhabit the mainland of Bocas del Toro but do not have an independent territory. As they live in no governmental support, poverty attacks. Furthermore, they find their land is endangered by deforestation.

Panama Indigenous Art Using Modern Materials

Recently, Panama indigenous art is created to reflect Panama’s culture and modern material. As we already know, African and Latin bring so much influence to Panama’s stunning ethnic mix. 

We can see various indigenous art reflecting this country, ranging from carvings of wood, flamboyant costumes, unordinary lace dresses, tagua nut, etc.

We can find these original Panama indigenous arts in the dusty village of the Peninsula de Azuero or the depths of the Darién. These villages have been created those treasures over many generations.

Furthermore, each village has a different craft, as follow:

  • The Peninsula de Azuero produces masks, polleras (which combine the Spanish traditional outfits), and such authentic leather sandals.
  • The Wounaan and Emberá. They have been living in the Darién. They produce small figurines (made of tagua nut that has natural ivory-color), carvings of jungle wildlife from cocobolo, and tropical hardwood. Besides, their high-quality woven baskets are worth your cash.
  • The Guna (of the Comarca de Guna Yala). They produce molas, which is traditionally the blouse for women.
  • Oeú and Penonomé. They produce beautiful Panaman-style hats.
  • Polleras and the villages in the province of Los Santos and the province of Las Tablas. They have handcrafted festivals asks.
  • Huacas. They produce golden objects in the form of a warrior, jaguar, crocodile, condor, or frog. These objects are intended to be placed with leaders of the indigenous tribe in their burial. Visiting this site, you should purchase their solid-gold and various gold-plated.

A Real Flavor of Panama Tribe Food Are Worth to Taste

Once you do a big trip to Latin America, including Panama, their traditional Panama tribe food is worth to try. 

It is not the luxurious menu nor the grandeur place that makes it special, but nature and its simplicity. Reaching this tribe’s site needs to cross the river and there will be fresh fish, fruits, and leaves.

On the other hand, in the cities in Panama, their what-so-called traditional food is influenced strongly by Spain, Africa, and its own indigenous Native American people. You may taste the similarity with the ones in Columbia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

And here are some traditional Panamanian food having a real flavor of this country:

  • Sancocho de gallina Panameño. This has been a National dish you must try. It is a kind of light chicken soup with potatoes, plantains, yuca, and cilantro herb. It originally comes from the Azuero region.
  • Ropa vieja. This tasty slow-cooked dish can be easily found in Gran Canaria. Though it means old clothes in Spanish, this is a beef stew with spices (like cumin, black pepper, and oregano).
  • Panamanian tortillas. This is a thicker and circular version of Mexican tortillas. In this country, you find it a popular breakfast dish with eggs or melted cheese.
  • Carimañolas. This is both a popular breakfast dish and an afternoon snack. It is yuca (cassava) fritter stuffed with seasoned ground beef and cheese, then being fried.
  • Ron Ponche. Never Panama without having this Panama’s signature cocktail. At first, it might be similar to eggnog (a cocktail of rum mixed with vanilla extract, egg yolk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg).

Relocation Indians in Panama and How This Country Manages It

Indians in Panama experienced a relocation, so their traditional territory was much lessened than it used to be. 

It happened to almost Indians in Panama, except the Darién Chocó of Eastern Panama. This tribe has resettled into the village. As their number is large, they are experts in the tropical rain forest, hunting, and fishing.

The Darién has 16.803 km4 and becomes the largest and least-developed province in Panama. They had that resource-rich area but were unreachable by the national society. 

But the world has changed. These years, the National laws have pushed them to do cash-earning activities, so they are now a developed tribal organization.

Kuna Tribe Panama: A Beautiful Coastal Island

It needs a 90 minutes flight northeast from Panama City to land yourself into this Kuna tribe Panama. 

They take themselves in isolation in the San Blas Islands, Panama’s Caribbean coastline. The beautiful nature sure is one thing you won’t regret visiting this site. 

And some cruise ships also stop at an island by the Kuna but only those with a sense of adventure are brave enough to get to know more of an authentic experience.

Once you land on this site, you know you left the modern world behind. This Kuna tribe Panama has lived on about 50 islands, and some mainland settlements from Panama to Colombia. 

Here, women still wear their traditional clothing unless they get higher education.

Their traditional women’s clothing is including a Mola (brightly-colored blouse with several hand cut-out layers), some beads on the arms and legs, a gold nose ring (sometimes), and a red headscarf.

Who is Guna Panama?

Guna Panama (which is also known as Kuna) tribe has the most incredible wildlife survival skills. They get their culture mixed of Panamanian and Columbian creating unique clothing, beading, and unbelievable cuisine.

Most people of this tribe speak Dulegaya (a native language), and Spanish (in education and written government documents). 

Once you plan to visit San Blas, cash is king. You will get charge for $1.00-$10.00 while entering the island. The money goes to support local businesses, water, and maintain the island. 

Watching their survival tips, your hands, willingness, and knowledge is your primary source.

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