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A Visit from a Distant Chief

This past month ACCI welcomed Celestino Mariano Gallardo, Chief of the  Ngäbe-Buglé people who live in the Nidrini region of Panama.  He was joined by Professor Daviken Studniki-Gizbert from McGill University, Sean Phipps an undergrad in Latin American and Environmental Studies and Rachel Mulbry an undergrad in Environmental Sciences and Middle Eastern Studies, and Katherine Scott a graduate student all from McGill University.  The Ngäbe-Buglé people of Panama have had struggles with their federal government with respect to self-determination and have had to deal with impacts of foreign mining and hydro companies using their traditional land. 

Celestino Mariano Gallardo came to ACCI on a fact finding mission to view what has been accomplished by the Cree Nation over that past 40 years in their relations with the federal and provincial governments.   Upon arriving, the group was greeted by ACCI’s Executive Director, Stephen Inglis, Sophie Bosum, Director of Operations for the Band of Ouje-Bougoumou, and by Abel Bosum, President of ACCI’s Foundation, former Chief of Ouje-Bougoumou and Negotiator for the CRA.  A wonderful conversation took place between Celestino Mariano Gallardo and Abel Bosum.  Both highlighted similarities between their people and the struggles that they have had to endure over the years.   It was especially heart-warming for Celestino Mariano Gallardo as this conversation inspired hope that his current struggle can have a positive ending for his people.

During the afternoon, the group had an opportunity to speak with ACCI’s Library and Archives staff on what they are doing to help preserve oral history with the Cree Nation.  The Ngäbe-Buglé do have an oral history and preserving this history is essential in passing on their culture to future generations.  Speaking with our Archivist and Librarian provided a unique insight for future projects of the Ngäbe-Buglé people.

While many people in Panama do speak Spanish, there is an indigenous language spoken by the Ngäbe-Buglé people.  Their next stop on their visit was with the CRA language department here at ACCI.  They were provided information on what is happening with regards to the language commission and plans for language development.   Celestino Mariano Gallardo has hopes that that there will be something similar in the future to help the native language of the Ngäbe-Buglé people.

After all of these informative sessions, they continued with a tour of our exhibit, and as all visitors, were extremely happy and amazed by our collection.  Having the opportunity to see our collection up close helped shed some light on the possibility of bringing to life something similar to the Ngäbe-Buglé people of Panama.  It became clear throughout their visit that ACCI could become an example to follow.  


They had an opportunity before the end of the day to speak with Stephen Inglis on a number of issues related to culture and the creation of a Cultural Institute such as ACCI.  The foundation for a great working relationship between two unique cultural groups was established and hopefully ACCI can become a beacon for their future work.


The group continued their visit with us on Tuesday and they were able to participate in our fish smoking activity; where they not only cleaned a fish, but also seasoned it in and placed it on the racks to be smoked.  Later in the day, tasting smoked fish was on the menu, and without a doubt all enjoyed their samples.  They were also shown how to make birch bark moose calls by one of our interpreters, and later tried calling a big bull moose.  This is a talent that takes a lot of practice, however this was an experience that all appeared to enjoy.  The group had an opportunity to experience a process of how culture is taught, and that is by watching and then by doing.  Hopefully, the idea of having hands on demonstrations and activities that are interesting, engaging and enjoyable will be part of their cultural teachings in the future. 

ACCI would like wish Celestino Mariano Gallardo and all of the Ngäbe-Buglé people of Panama luck in building their future, whether it is with self-determination or in building their own cultural centre.  ACCI would like to thank Daviken Studniki-Gizbert for bringing such a distinguished guest, and for bringing his students to share in this wonderful meeting; best of luck to all. 

If you would like to read more on the Ngäbe-Buglé people, please follow the links below.