Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Political Science

Publication Date



How have indigenous societies responded to the changes taking place around them as development proceeds, and how have they been able to retain or regain control over resource management and their own forms of development? This article examines the experiences of the Kunas and the Ngöbe of Panama as they attempt to survive and adapt to development imposed by a dominant society. These indigenous societies have adapted to different ecological settings on the small isthmus, have been faced with different kinds of challenges to their control of lands and resources, and have responded in different ways. The first section contains descriptions of the challenges facing the two groups and an overview of important development and indigenous policies in Panama that have shaped the conditions to which indigenous societies must continue to formulate responses. The second section is a summary and analysis of the indigenous societies’ responses to attempts by outsiders to expropriate their lands and resources.


This is the author's manuscript of an article published in Latin American Perspectives.


Latin American Perspectives


Copyright © 2003 Latin American Perspectives