Monday, May 5, 2014


Works Cited
"About the Kuna Indians." The Kuna Indians Inhabit the San Blas Islands. N.p., 30 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 May 2014.
Bowerman, Eddie L. "About the Kuna Indians." About the Kuna Indians. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2014. <>.
"The History of the Kuna Indians." Panama City, Panama Real Estate and Travel Reports. Ed. Andrew Cowman and Claire Saylor. The Panama Report, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014. <>.
"The Kuna Indians." The Kuna Indians. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2014. <>.
Olson, James Stuart. "Cuna." The Indians of Central and South America: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. New York: Greenwood, 1991. N. pag. Print.
"Sailing with Nine of Cups San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala) of Panama." Sailing with Nine of Cups San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala) of Panama. David Lynn & Marcie Connelly-Lynn, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014. <>.
Sherzer, Joel. Stories, Myths, Chants, and Songs of the Kuna Indians. Austin: U of Texas, 2003. Print.
Stevens, Stan, and Terry De Lacy. Conservation through Cultural Survival: Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas. Washington, DC: Island, 1997. Print.
Sumner-Fromeyer, Dr. Janet. "The Kuna Indians." The Kuna Indians. Starship Millennium Voyage, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014. <>.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Kuna Music

The Kunas mainly play pan flutes and maracas as music. They are usually played during ceremonies and important events. While playing these instruments, there is sometimes chanting going on. These chants usually tell some sort f story pertaining to what they are celebrating or recognizing.

Kuna man playing pan flute and Kuna woman dancing

Kuna maracas

Here is a clip of a couple of Kuna men playing the pan flute for tourist in the area: 

Native Birds

Since the Kuna Indians have preserved most of their lands from tourists and such, there are quite a lot of birds species in their reservations. Here are a list of local birds from Eastern Panama and the San Blas Islands and some facts about them:

Agami Heron:

This species occurs in swampy stream and lake margins within tropical forest, and also in seasonal marshes. It tends to remain in lowlands. The breeding season appears to coincide with the arrival of rains.

 Aplomado Falcon:
Aplomado Falcons are not migratory and spend most of the year on their territory. When not actively hunting, they perch on fence posts, in trees, or along power poles, taking in their surroundings. During nesting season, Aplomado Falcons are quick to defend their territory against any intruders.screaming loudly at intruders with a sharp cack, cack, cack and sometimes knocking them on the back of the head. The birds will continue this behavior until the offending animal is far enough away that it no longer poses a threat to the falcons’ young.

Hepatic Tanager:
Although the Hepatic Tanager has the most restricted range of the four tanagers in the United States, in fact it is the most widespread member of its genus. It breeds from the southwestern United States southward all the way to Argentina. It also flycatches its food (insects). It moves slowly and deliberately through foliage, working out from base of lower limbs. Flies out and catches flushed insects.

Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo:
They are a large terrestrial species of Cuckoo in the Cuculidae family.  They are found in humid forests from southern Nicaragua, through Costa Rica and Panama, into north-western Colombia. However it is
highly inconspicious and infrequently seen.

Keel Billed Toucan (Rainbow Billed Toucan:

They live in holes of trees with several other keel billed toucan individuals. To make room they all sleep with their beak and tail tucked under their body to create more room. They are extremely sociable birds. The keel billed toucan travel in small flocks which usually contain between 6 and 15 individuals. Surprisingly they are not very good at flying and does most of its moving about by hopping between tree branches.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kuna Introduction

The Kuna Indians are a strongly knit tribal society living on the islands called San Blas Islands, and on the mainland of the Atlantic side of Panama. The Kuna Indians preserved their culture very well, living almost exactly the same as their ancestors. Agriculture and fishing are their main source of income as well as their intricate and beautiful knitted clothes called molas created by the women. Between their beliefs and ways of living there is no other culture out there like the Kuna's. They somehow managed to retain their tribal identity and kept themselves free from the complexities of modern society

Migrations and Diaspora

Like previously stated from the origins post, the Kuna people came from Colombia where they went towards the Darien mountains and relocated to Panama and the San Blas islands. 
Darien Gap

These migrations were caused partly by wars with other indigenous tribes and possibly by bad treatment of the Spanish invaders. To this day, The kuna reside on the east coast of Panama. Most Kuna people stay within the reservation, but there are a few who travel out to Panama city for finding jobs and getting an education at universities. Other then that, they don't travel outside of Panama, for they are proud of their culture and want to preserve it.

Darien Mountains in the Darien gap

Origin of the Kuna people

The Kuna Indians have lived in Panama and the San Blas islands for the last two hundred years. Their actual origins are disputed though. According to oral tradition the tribe emigrated from Colombia at the end of the 16th century, after their tribe was repeatedly attacked by Amerindians. 

They fled and settled in the Darien Mountains. Under pressure from other tribes, or possibly the Spanish conquistadors. The majority of the Kunas moved to the coast and later to the offshore islands which are the San Blas Islands. 

Kuna flag : Swastika represent the four winds

The Kuna Indians have governed their region since the 1920's. The Kuna rebelled in 1925 killing Panamanian policemen and many children of mixed blood living on the Islands. The US intervened and in 1938 the region was officially recognized by the government of Panama and autonomous rule was granted. Today the Kuna have 2 representatives in the Panamanian legislature and can also vote in general elections.

Kuna Cultural Survival

These days the Kuna Indians sell their Molas to tourist but not as clothing because they don’t want tourists to wear the traditional clothing. You can buy patches of Molas for wall decoration or for pillows. You are able to buy Molas in Panama or Colombia, however they are not allowed to be sold outside these countries because the Kuna’s forbid it. Selling these molas bring in a lot of money for the families.

Tourist purchasing molas

The Kuna’s mainly survive by allowing tourists on their islands and selling coconuts to the mainland and surrounding countries. On all the islands, palm trees provide plenty of coconuts that give a steady flow of income all year around. If you were to steal or take a coconut from the island, you would be punished with a high fine.

Kuna woman carving a coconut

When visiting, you must pay $1 for each island visited.

The tourists are only allowed on a couple of islands of San Blas and on these islands the Kuna provide food and stay for them all year around. 
If you enter the San Blas area you are to obey the rules and traditions of the Kuna’s. Because of the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous inhabitants the area is still relatively untouched by the tourist branches.
Kunas are very proud of their culture and try to keep it from being exposed from the outside world.

Within the government house in Carti. a sign is displayed with the phrase “The people who lose their culture lose their soul”