The Wounaan Indians in Panama

The Wounaan Indians in Panama

There are perhaps 2,600 Wounaan indians living Darien rainforest. In 1983 the government of Panamá recognized the Comarca Emberá-Drua, a semi-autonomous Indigenous territory for both tribes. This territory covers parts of the Darien National Park and Biosphere Reserve.

The Embera-Wounaan are semi-nomadic Indians living along the banks of the Chucunaque, Sambu, Tuira Rivers. The rivers serve as their highways and source of livelihood. They live independently in small one or two family groups and their houses are on platform raised on stilts several feet above the ground. They cultivate food in gardens near their houses and eat typical foods like masata. They hunt and fish and make wood crafts.

Wounaan indians live in remote areas, and survive therefore very much as the Spaniards found them early in the 16th century. They are a proud, peaceful, honest, people who live a day-to-day existence with few economic pressures. Their government is by General Chiefs who hold the main authority and there are sahilas for each village. They usually make their own laws

Both men and women go about practically naked. The men are short, muscular with straight black hair, earrings, a small loin cloth and dark body paint made from the dye of a native berry from the genip tree. They also use a red body paint made from achiote, the seed pod which is used to give colour and flavor to Panamanian cooking. Women wear colourful dresses, plus flowers on their heads and necklaces. .

Indigenous Indians in Panama