Collection Description

Culture Name

Kuna

Culture Description

The Kuna are one of Panama's three major groups of indigenous peoples. Most of the Kuna live in the District of San Blas, or Kuna Yala, along Panama's northern coast. The Kuna mostly speak Kuna, a Chibchan language. The Kuna are horticulturalists (plantains are their staple crop), supplemented by fishing, hunting and gathering. Coconuts and embroidered women's blouses (molas) are important exports. Men frequently migrate for wage labor. The Kuna are also actively engaged in commerce with Colombians by boat; they trade coconuts for sugar, rice, cocoa, or cash.

Note

Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.

Region

Middle America and the Caribbean --Central America

Countries

Panama

OWC Code

SB05

Number of Documents

28

Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages

6070

Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Kuna file consists of twenty-seven documents, ranging in time coverage from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries. The primary work here is Nordenskiöld (1938, no. 1), further supplemented by the data in his other works (Nordenskiöld 1930, 1931, 1929, 1928, 1930, nos. 8, 9, 11, 28, and 29). Other studies providing varying degrees of general ethnographic coverage are: Wafer (1934, no. 2), Wassén (1949, no. 4), McKim (1947, no. 5), DePuydt (1868, no. 7), Marshall (n.d., no. 12), Krieger (1926, no. 22), Cullen (1867, no. 23), and De Smidt (1948, no. 33), Ventocilla (1995, no. 38), Holloman (1969, no. 42), and Puig (n.d., no. 45). The remaining documents in the file cover a wide range of varying topics. Religion, medicine, and curing practices are discussed in the various Nordenskiöld works mentioned above plus additional data in Chapin (1983, no. 40).

Language, speech and Kuna texts are all topics found in Holmer (1951, no. 21), and Sherzer (1983, no. 39). Kuna music is discussed in Holmer (n.d., no. 13), and Densmore (1926, no. 14). Other subjects discussed in the file are socio-cultural change in Holloman and Swain (1982, no. 43); tales and myths in Wassén (n.d., no. 46); acculturation in Stout (1947, no. 3); the 1925 revolt in Moore (1983, no. 35), and Puig (n.d., no. 45) the Kuna political system in Howe (1986, no. 36, and Holloman; the commercialization of women's clothing (i.e., the MOLA) in Tice (1995, no. 37); and albinism and genetics in Stout (1946, no. 6), and Harris (1926, no. 34).

This culture summary is from the article, "Kuna" by Karin E. Tice, in the Encyclopedia Of World Cultures, Vol. 8. 1995. James W. Dow, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. Population figures were updated by Ian Skoggard in October 1998. We wish to thank James Howe for his suggestions in the preparation of this file. James Howe is the author of the extensive supplemental bibliography which has been appended following the bibliography section below. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in October 1998.

Overview by

John Beierle

ABSOGEDIS -- see shamans

APSOKET -- an eight-day ceremony to expel disease -- categories 755, 789

ARKAN KAE -- "shake hands", a form of etiquette greeting -- categories 574, 576

ARKAR -- a chief's spokesman -- category 624

ASUOLO -- gold nose ring -- category 301

chapter houses -- urban associations -- categories 571, 575, 369 and others

CHICHAS -- puberty ceremonies -- category 881

child lending -- a form or variation on adoption -- category 597

CIRCUNSCRIPCION DE SAN BLAS -- a government run administrative unit -- categories 657 /648

COMARCA -- the Kuna reserve -- category 657

CONGRESO -- village or regional assembly or gathering -- categories 623/571

CONGRESO GENERAL/CONGRESO TRADICIONAL -- a convocation of chiefs -- category 646

CORREGIDOR -- a judge -- categories 692, 693

ENCARGADO -- a system of standing committees within the CONGRESO -- category 623

epilepsy, magical treatment of -- category 755

EX ALUMNOS ASSOCIATION -- category 575

high chiefs -- category 643

IBEORGUN NEGA -- the great council house at Ailigandi -- categories 623 and 344

IKAR (IKALA) -- a gathering which hears a series of topics or cases -- categories 623/627; also may mean way, text, or chant

INADULEGAN -- herbalists -- category 759

INATULEDI -- see shamans

INTENDENCIA -- an administrative territorial unit -- category 631 (sometimes with 657)

KURGIN -- beliefs about intelligence -- category 828; sometimes with 554

MASARTULE -- similar to NUCHUS -- category 776

MOLA -- women's blouse -- category 291; manufacture of, 294

MU -- a female supernatural being who endows the human fetus with its PURBA, KURGIN, etc.-- category 776

MUUKANA -- midwives -- categories 759, 844

NELES -- see shamans

NIGA(NIKA) -- a spiritual element that resides in the blood -- categories 774 and 828

NUCHUKANA -- carved wooden figures with supernatural powers -- categories 532, 789, 778

NUCHUS -- helpful tutelary spirits who aid the shaman to recover stolen or lost PURBAS of the sick -- category 776; as applied to wood figures (NUCHUKANA) with supernatural powers -- categories 776/778

OMEKITS -- woman-like man -- category 838

ONMAKKET -- village council or gathering -- category 623

PISKARS -- individuals who manage the adjudication of cases -- categories 624, 693

PONIKANA -- spirits which cause illness -- category 776

public treasury (on the community level) -- category 652

PURBA (PURPA) -- indwelling soul, in relation to man 774, 775; for animals, 774 & 825; for plants 774 and 824; in relation to inanimate objects, 774/778

SAKA -- the head of an extended family group; generally one's father-in -law -- category 596

SAKLA -- the village chief -- category 622

seals (official Kuna) -- category 186

shamans -- three types - NELES, INATULEDI, and ABSOGEDIS - all marked for category 756

SIKKWI -- community secretaries and translators -- categories 212, 624

SOCIEDADES -- a voluntary association or cooperative -- categories 575, 474

SUALIPET (SUARIPETI) -- policemen -- categories 624, 625

VOCEROS -- see ARKAR

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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