RPCV Ned Butler (Panama) gave a talk about the Guna (Kuna) tribe of the San Blas Islands


Thanks to the ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974-77)

Former volunteer talks about changes in Panamanian tribe

Mount Desert Islander (Bar Harbor, Maine) March 31, 2017



BAR HARBOR, MAINE — Ned Butler presented a talk and slide show about the Guna (Kuna) tribe of the San Blas Islands in Panama when he visited the Jesup Memorial Library on Friday, April 7.

When Butler was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s, he spent time working on tribal development projects with members of the tribe. His talk explored the history and development of the Guna tribe over the past 50 years.

Butler covered the history of the tribe as well as why the tribe decided to invite the Peace Corps to the region to help with tribal community development. He also highlighted three of the projects that the Peace Corps has worked on and the role that they have played in the region.

He also spoke about how the Guna tribe has changed since the 1960s. Now that the Guna tribal lands have become an ecotourism destination, Butler talked about the recent changes and challenges to the tribe in the 21st century as they work to direct their own destiny. Unlike many Indian tribes in the United States, the Guna had a unique opportunity to manage their own lands and maintain their culture and language. However, an increasing rate of change and pressures from outside (including money, standard of living, medicine, climate change and drugs) and within the tribal culture (such as governance and the leadership style, managing fishing and natural resources, tourism, waste disposal and education) offer challenges and choices that will determine the future of a rich, unusual Native American culture.

Mola — traditional reverse appliqué made by the indians of the San Blas Islands.

Mola — traditional reverse appliqué made by the Indians of the San Blas Islands.


One Comment

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  • Ned,

    I was a volunteer in Chiriquí in 1964-1966.

    I am part of a team organzing a course on the Peace Corps to be given next Spring, 2024. We are members of Encore Learning, a life-long learning program in Arlington, Virginia.

    Your talk on San Blas is exactly the type of materal we want to cover in our course. Would you be willing to give your talk to us?

    – Steve Spangler

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