The Marrow Thieves. Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves © Cherie Dimaline

If you prefer to read as PDF, click here

Story: Part One (novel excerpt)

“Anishnaabe people, us, lived on these lands for a thousand years. Some of our brothers decided to walk as far east as they could go, and some walked west, and some crossed great stretches of narrow earth until they reached other parts of the globe. Many of us stayed here. We welcomed visitors, who renamed the land Canada. Sometimes things got real between us and the newcomers. Sometimes we killed each other. We were great fighters —warriors, we called ourselves and each other— and we knew these lands, so we kicked a lot of ass.”

The boys always puffed out their chests when Miig got to this part. The women straightened their spines and elongated their necks, their beautiful faces like flowers opening in the heat of the fire.

“But we lost a lot. Mostly because we got sick with new germs. And then when we were on our knees with fever and pukes, they decided they liked us there, on our knees. And that’s when they opened the first schools. 

“We suffered there. We almost lost our languages. Many lost their innocence, their laughter, their lives. But we got through it, and the schools were shut down. We returned to our home places and rebuilt, relearned, regrouped. We picked up and carried on. There were a lot of years where we were lost, too much pain drowned in forgetting that came in convenient packages: bottles, pills, cubicles where we settled to move around papers. But we sang our songs and brought them to the streets and into the classrooms — classrooms we built on our own lands and filled with our own words and books. And once we remembered that we were warriors, once we honored the pain and left it on the side of the road, we moved ahead. We were back.”

Minerva drew in a big, wet sniff, wiped her nose across her sleeve, and then set about chewing the fabric once more. 

“Then the wars for the water came. America reached up and started sipping on our lakes with a great metal straw. And where were the freshest lakes and the cleanest rivers? On our lands, of course. Anishnaabe were always the canary in the mine for the rest of them. Too bad the country was busy worrying about how we didn’t pay an extra tax on Levi’s jeans and Kit Kat bars to listen to what we were shouting.

“The Great Lakes were polluted to muck. It took some doing, but right around the time California was swallowed back by the ocean, they were fenced off, too poisonous for use.”

I’d seen the Great Lakes: Ontario when we were in the city and Huron when we lived on the New Road Allowance. The waters were grey and thick like porridge. In the distance, anchored ships swung, silent and shuttered, back and forth on the roll of methodical waves.

“The Water Wars raged on, moving north seeping our rivers and bays, and eventually, once our homelands were decimated and the water leeched and the people scattered, they moved on to the towns. Only then were armies formed, soldiers drafted, and bullets fired. Ironically, at the same time rivers were being sucked south and then east to the highest bidder, the North was melting. The Melt put most of the northlands under water, and the people moved south or onto some of the thousands of tiny islands that popped up out of the Melt’s wake across the top of our lands. Those northern people, they were tough, though, some of the toughest we’ve ever had, so they were okay, are still okay, the takes tell. Some better than okay. That’s why we move north towards them now.”

Migg stood, pacing his Story pace, waving his arms like a slow-motion conductor to place emphasis and tone over us all. We needed to remember Story. It was his job to set the memory in perpetuity. He spoke to us every week. Sometimes Story was focused on one area, like the first residential schools: where they were, what happened there, when they closed. Other times he told a hundred years in one long narrative, blunt and without detail. Sometimes we gathered for an hour so he could explain treaties, and others it was ten minutes to list the earthquakes in the sequence that they occurred, peeling the edging off the continents back like diseased gums. But every week we spoke, because it was imperative that we know. He said it was the only way to make the kinds of changes that were necessary to really survive. “A general has to see the whole field to make good strategy,” he’d explain. “When you’re down there fighting, you can’t see much past the threat directly in front of you.”

“The Water Wars lasted ten years before a new set of treaties and agreements were shook on between world leaders in echoing assembly halls. The Anishnaabe were scattered, lonely, and scared. On our knees again, only this time there was no home to regroup at. Meanwhile, the rest of the continent sank into a new era. The world’s edges had been clipped by the rising waters, tectonic shifts, and constant rains. Half of the population was lost in the disaster and from the disease that spread from too many corpses and not enough graves. The ones that were left were no better off, really. They worked long hours, they stopped reproducing without the doctors, and worst of all, they stopped dreaming. Families, loved ones, were torn apart in this new world.”

The excerpt from The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline, published by Cormorant Books Inc., Toronto, (Copyright 2017 © Cherie Dimaline) is used with the permission of the author and the publisher.

For more about the author

Cherie Dimaline is a member of the historical Métis community of Georgian Bay in the territory now known as Canada. On her website, her biography states: “I come from hunters and women who told stories and made their own remedies when they weren’t purchasing salves from the ‘peddler’ who would come across the Bay once in a while. Some remedies used holy water from the Shrine in town, others used water collected from the Bay on Easter Sunday. Many were based around onions and pine. To this day, my family hunts and harvests.” Dimaline is the author of six books but The Marrow Thieves, published in 2017, was declared by TIME magazine one of the best books for young adults of all times, among other prestigious prizes that the novel received in North America.  This science fiction novel for teenagers presents a future when Indigenous peoples are being hunted for their bone marrow. Dimaline presents an eclectic group of characters that get together and collaborate to hide from the danger; at the same time she presents the social and environmental problems that have led to the dystopian context of the novel’s reality. The second volume of this saga, titled Hunting By Stars, came out in 2021. 

The Marrow Thieves © Cherie Dimaline ~ Siwar Mayu, June 2022

A Selection of Contemporary Gunadule Literature

Photograph of a mola from Sue Patricia Haglund’s mola collection

Introduction, selection and translation from Spanish © Sue Patricia Haglund

Texts by Gunadule authors © Dad Neba Nelson De León Kantule, 

© Taira Edilma Stanley Icaza,

 © Cebaldo Inawinapi De León, 

© Atencio López, 

© Kinyapiler Johnson González, and 

© Maninaindi R. Roldan. G

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To be Gunadule is to be Gunayala and to be Abiayala/Abya Yala

Baba and Nana are supreme beings, our creators.
Abiayala/Abya Yala, known as saved territory and land of blood, is also as our brother, Dad Neba Nelson de León Kantule says, Abiayala/Abya Yala represents spaces “of fullness."
Abia - blood
It comes from the dulegaya language, dule language or also known as guna or Gunadule
Abe/Ablis is blood – and the word, Yala-land, mountain, continent, territory.
blood land; spilled blood and life blood.
Abiayala/Abya Yala is solidarity and collective, with collective solidarity we are similar to the earth, a land of fullness and life,
To understand the depth of Abiayala/Abya Yala, it is more than the four stages of the evolution of our worlds, it is the memories of our stories of Babigala, of Baba and Nana, of Ibeler and his siblings, they are stories of chaos and unification, of Biler and Ibeler, therefore, for us Dules, it is about relational positionalities.
Abiayala/Abya Yala exists.
It is not about ‘the Americas’. It is more.
Abiayala/Abya Yala, has always been alive and present.
Abiayala/Abya Yala is the evolution of development with collective solidarity, not the chaos of destruction, because as in the words of our brother, Marden Paniza, Gunadule musician and composer, it is to remind us that mer burgwega anmar namagge “we sing to not die” and in these we sing.
Anmar di, we are water
Anmar yala, we are land and mountains
Anmar ari, we are iguana
Anmar achu, we are jaguar
Anmar yaug, we are turtle
Anmar bansus, we are hummingbird
Anmar Abiayala
We are land of blood
Land of spilled blood, blood of life
We are a land of fullness
And we don't lack anything


Dad Neba Nelson De León Kantule*

Napguana Asociation

Indigenous peoples, development and Environment

After the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992, it was a historic event for indigenous peoples and their rights in relation to the environment, where it recognized the indigenous peoples and their communities to the care of mother earth that they have been doing and the use of the environment. The importance of traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples was recognized and the international community (states) committed to promote, strengthen and protect the rights, knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples and their communities.

Indigenous peoples continue to be targeted by those who promote alleged developments with globalizing plans, which in the long run further harm our precarious living conditions. All this happens in a convulsed world, where internal wars or wars between states are becoming a habit. In the same way, wars between the powerful (transnational companies) are reasons for the displacement of indigenous peoples in subhuman conditions, when they discover minerals, when they want to build hydroelectric plants and others, in our territories. (There are plenty of examples in Abya Yala (Abiyala), (America), the case of the Kuna of Mudungandi, in Panama, the Bayano hydroelectric plant, and the construction of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric plant.
Talking about development for the Indigenous Peoples does not only mean talking about investments and cooperation brought from abroad, it means, first of all, the recognition of their culture and traditions, which also involves respect for the ancestral technology with which our Peoples have survived.

Faced with this reality of the great changes mentioned, we indigenous peoples face these challenges and we have to prepare for those to come, without renouncing our roots or the principles that our ancestors bequeathed to us. Taking up the teachings of the great sages of our history, our identity, adapting them to the reality of the present, to project into the future.

It is time for the indigenous peoples to plant their own model, based on our organizational dynamics, with political, socioeconomic, cultural, religious, territorial and autonomy approaches, in short, the claim of our specific and collective rights, based on solidarity, equity, historically underestimated by the Uagas (non-indigenous).

We are not against development, we want development and remain indigenous. What we do not share and we do not agree with are the impositions of the Western development model, which have proven to be inoperative, outdated, which have caused ruptures and considerable damage to our political and social structures of our peoples. These models imposed on our peoples, migrations, changes weaken our cultural identity. The Uagas (non-indigenous) will always see the indigenous peoples as an obstacle, a barrier to development.

The indigenous peoples, in general, have a long experience in the management of natural resources, since we have lived since time immemorial in direct contact with nature, obtaining from it the necessary benefactors to satisfy our needs. Even though they have not defined the concept of sustainable development, they have been putting it into practice for many years.

Indigenous peoples have lost much of their territories in the name of development, and are at risk of further losing ancestral lands and sacred places, many of which contain the richest biodiversity in the world. Governments that have joined the Convention on Biological Diversity have an obligation to enact domestic laws or amend their constitutions to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in the conservation and sustainable use of their environment.

I wonder what forests, what biodiversity do our countries sell or negotiate to redeem their foreign debt? We have rich forests, minerals, fresh water, seas, if we sell everything today, tomorrow we will also be poor and we will not have them to bequeath to our future generations, therefore we cannot say whether to make any investment thinking about today's hunger.

We indigenous people are going to accept investments in our region without any problem, as long as the investors are honest people and want to share the profits with us, those who do not make our brothers work so as not to pay them later... those who do not hide behind the politicians in power to insult an indigenous culture, those who have the patience of the indigenous authorities in the negotiations. We are aware of the wealth we possess, but the world does not end tomorrow and there will come other relatives of ours who will thank us for not having exhausted everything at once of what our Napguana (Mother Earth) bequeathed to us, mother of all development if we love and preserve it, or simply from human misfortunes, if as their children we do not know how to respect them.

All the demands of our peoples are fair and legal in light of international and national laws, agreements, treaties and other instruments that speak about the rights of indigenous peoples. We can mention a concrete example with the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, art. 32. Paragraph 2. The States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent before approving any project that affects their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, use or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

But the full recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples is not given clearly in all countries. For this reason, true recognition and not only on paper or laws, is the essential starting point to change along the path towards full development. Which means that we indigenous peoples have the full capacity to carry out our own development and that we are given this opportunity.

We only ask for the opportunity to at least be given to chart and choose our own destiny, based on our principles and cultural values, which have so far proven to be valid in our communities.

The main characteristic of indigenous peoples, unlike Western society, is that social systems are based on help, mutual protection, brotherhood and solidarity. That they do not need to be written in voluminous codes that in the end are not fulfilled, it is in daily practice that our people make it a reality, it is our way of life. Both the social, political, economic and spiritual aspects of life are vitally linked forming a unity.

For all that has been said above, I continue to maintain the principle of my Kuna teachers, for our parents, naskued (development) means producing the land and learning traditional knowledge for the benefit of all and not of a few, not to be rich individually, but to share it with everyone.

This value has kept us going despite the many changes that are happening in indigenous society. The Kuna cultural identity is still alive, will continue to be alive, as long as our peoples live together. The strength of our culture has persisted throughout history; the entry of some imposed models in the region has changed some things in our communities, and even so, it has not been able to change our being, we will continue to be Kuna.

This path is essential, considering the active participation of indigenous peoples, such as the Ngäbe, Kunas, Emberás, Nasos, Wounaan, Buglé, Bri-bris people.

Thus the participation of women, youth, the elderly and others. Whose contribution will allow the construction of a more solid, harmonious, and representative legal basis, the result of which will be a fairer and more balanced society, in the same way, the political will and tolerance of all the actors, to understand and accept the existence of this diversity of peoples. indigenous in Panama.

For peaceful coexistence and the construction of a true democratic society, it is essential to recognize and give value to the existence of indigenous peoples with their different values and interests, as well as to respect and tolerate those historical values and interests that distinguish us from others. Logically, a mere moral recognition is not enough; in a country like Panama, where different cultures coexist, it must be reflected in its legislation, in the constitution. There should not be a group that imposes its own norms and values of conduct and behavior on others.
* Dad Neba: In the Kuna indigenous language, it means, "Grandfather of the Plain", with that name identifies Nelson De León Kantule, Kuna indigenous communicator / Director of the Napguana Association. E-mail: and


Photograph of a mola from Sue Patricia Haglund’s mola collection

Taira Edilma Stanley Icaza


I want to talk about the strokes
of my body
From the traces where I come from
From the source that drives
my starting point

Of my first spiral line
of my heritage as an indigenous woman
of my rebellion, my nahua and my mola
of the courage that runs in my veins
from Grandma Carmen and Mom

Let the strokes penetrate
my body
talk about heritage and our
From sisters Bertha and Marielle
let me scream and love

I want to trace my body again
and again
drink from the inna*
feel the holy river
get tangled up again in my strokes
plot and plot
until starting with the end point,
like spiral

*inna: corn juice, drink

El Luna 1925 and Wewe

Another night, one of those nights
Of love
where cries are whispered
sadness, tears and more tears
They shake and shake the sweat

Wewe*, try to flap the humidity
And with basil in their mouth
gives peace of mind
stop so cruel
action, outrage
and rape.

Their wings flap
And they calm the pulse
ears try to hear
forget, that one
Crescent moon

Their eyes when sinking give the message
the voice that comes from their wings
soothe the soul,
brother moon,
whisper to Wewe
Let's sing

*wewe: variety of small cricket that abounds along the coasts; sand flea.

Photograph of a mola from Sue Patricia Haglund’s mola collection

Cebaldo Inawinapi De León


An Di! 
An Di!
Water we are. Water we will be!
In a Kuna village a girl is born, and the midwife sings, the grandmother sings, they sing: We come from the water and with the water. Born from the fertile liquid of the placenta, which will later be fertilizer and will be sown (placenta and umbilical cord) in generous land, blessed by rain.
The girl grows up. One day, her body tells her that life is fruitful and for several days, the women of the village will bathe her daily in a surba –a sacred house made of leaves, words and a lot of love-, water and her and the words of the accomplices. and her desires and her dreams traveling through this sacred territory: her body!
Water and Word, tattooing puberty!
The woman goes to the final journey, the poet sings to her of her days and nights, and she receives the perfumed bath of flowers and plants and the last journey will be in the river of her youthful loves and planted in the generous forest... and she begins to navigate the sacred river that will guide her to the final Matria.
Water we are! The Greater Poet sings
Water we will be! The village sings.
A fruitful liquid brings us - in loving waters we love and create - and in a generous liquid we travel to the Final House!

Our Great Poets sing that a fine and magical thread unites, sews the waters of the rivers, the seas, the trees, the forest, the earth and its inhabitants, building a great network, balancing and harmonizing the sounds, colors and the fruits of the earth.

We are all One!

Song and art that our greatest creators, the Kuna women, have understood in a wonderful way, when they sew their dresses, their molas with colored fabrics where they tattoo their dreams, their desires, their stories and charms that come out of the left side of their chest and glide to the tips of the fingers.

And they continue it today, in these urgent times, their children, their grandchildren…harmonizing sounds, colors and dissonant things.

It is part of the larger network, of the universal fabric, balancing sounds, colors and flavors, and if one day part of the network breaks, we must quickly fix it, sew it, so that we can continue walking and rocking in this Universal Hammock, our Great House, Earth.

who orders the time? It is not the clock, it is the Word, it is the Language (I know I read it in some enchanted page of a beautiful book or in a song in some marine village) and it takes me on this urgent flight, to my days in the Big House, in the marine village, when the Great Poet, the Sagla sings and counts the days of the village, of the tribe, of the Earth,

because what inhabits and tattoos us is the time of speech, of words, of enjoyment, of the verb...reinventing worlds, word by word, creating magic...!



Photograph of a mola from Sue Patricia Haglund’s mola collection

Atencio López


I try to look
clouds and birds
at sunset,
but I couldn't.

my eyes blinded
delve further into
childhood memories
they won't come back

happy existence
in their laps
my future was formed
my hope.

of my life defoliate
flowers, dreams,
to accompany me

From the beach, sea,
I feel that something
turns off
I go around the world
carrying love,
and about them
I have to sleep

I feel love
but it overwhelms me
deep sadness
I hope the tears
wash away that bitterness
and may dawn
by your side
making love…


Nothing to celebrate
October 12th
start date
to genocide ever
in the history of mankind.

One hundred million human beings
led to the stakes
slaughtered and killed
in the name of god and the bible.

Kings of Spain
believing saviors of the world
inundated with human scum
our continent
human garbage
that wanted to delete
indigenous history.

From graves, forests,
rivers, seas and lakes
the slaughtered face
of grandmothers and grandfathers
they emerged to sully
Western pride, European pride
Abya Yala writes her own
history with an indigenous face
to the sound of the cry of


With music from ancient times
to the sound of flutes and maracas
I come drunk among fish
ocean smell
I bring before your altar
algae and flowers
that I pulled out
from the bottom of the sea,
I want to cry in your arms
And take your aromas and tenderness
to other worlds where I can
tell love stories
born on islands and beaches
under the raging sea
and a harsh sun.
Love of tanned faces
by saltpeter and starry nights,
memories and legacies
of our warrior ancestors.


From Sue Patricia Haglund’s mola collection, this mola is made by Rosa Lidia Gallardo, Sue Patricia Haglund’s cousin. The crab and fish mola is made by Gunadule mola-maker, Rosa Lidia Gallardo (granddaughter to Juan Gallardo, who is the brother of Sue Patricia Haglund’s grandfather, Ricardo Walker.)

Kinyapiler Johnson González


Suddenly the rhythms of troupes are heard,
the tunas**,  going up the street and down the street;
slippery ones come out on any street,
signal that the carnivals have arrived in Bannaba (1).
While, in the spirited and seductive Caribbean,
on the islands of the Tule Republic,
with pride the flags of the revolution are hoisted;
is the month of Morginnid e iba (2) is arinii. 
I have my red cotton shirt,
the urigan (3) are painted “enraged achiote”;
the fangs and hearts of jaguars, 
the claws and beaks of eagles came together.
The uprooted molas were stained with blood that day,
rings and winis (4) prohibited 
and scattered throughout the archipelago.
Forbidden to forget that date, tattooed on our hearts.
The jars of gabir (5) kicked and broken,
the braziers extinguished by boots,
the forbidden rituals,
split hammocks…
Never forget us companions,
that this country cost us blood
and it was not a gift from any government.
Alert, alert brothers,
Gabidamalargeee... (6)
Today the jars of the revolution
are fermented on each island,
to toast peace
to the heat of the totumas de gabir.
Today like yesterday we share that joy
together with our people,
because our eternal young warriors of 1925
planted their old hunting shotguns with a single shot,
but accurate as Igwaoginyabbiler's arrows,
the archer of the best marksmanship, brother Venus;
so that today his children and grandchildren can enjoy
and enjoy what we have...
¡Noggasdde, iddomalando, sioggooooo…nagase! (7)
Let's shout and toast with our grandmothers and mothers.
* arinii = iguana moon (month of February)
** the tunas = groups of people with song and music who dance in the streets with a drum ; dance and other instruments during the Panamanian carnival.
1. Morginnid e iba = Red Shirt Month
2. kuna warriors
3. beads
4. strong fermented drink
5. do not sleep
6. Kuna Toast: We have the gourd, let’s try, cheers…bottom’s up!

DIIANAI  (dulegaya)

“Iawala ganaggwa agdededi yalabali, 

Dada Nagibelele bega ulusumba sie nasaye, 

nue daggedi yalabali yee…” 

(Inicio del verso de Aggwanusa adaptado por mí, en el original dice “Pato Diolele”, donde digo: “Dada Nagibelele”

y en parte me inspiro en ese tratado de Aggwanusa, 

está dedicada a alguien muy especial).

Iawala gwenaddiye, bedi an idusad
nega sagla unni; andi bese gormaggenai,
be gammu ganse be ulusumba billinganba.

Inaulu dagge yobi bedi maigudeye,
gwena benunis nalleguemaisuli;
nii ulu obaggemaid ilaba nega duubali.

Nana Olonubdiigili, be ordiidina 
aryomegisa, ber gungidagge yobi; 
agddarmaggemai be ana gandi.

Nana Maninubdiigili, be maninisdii
suurmaggemai, ber maniale 
ber manidaggeyobi.

Nana Inanubdiigili, be inadii
wawadiggi ber inabisebdili yobi;
goggedili, nunabdili bunnogemainie. 

Nana Igwanubdiigili; be ganngued,
be sabed anga ugge;
bargaegala be nunis maniga sademalad.

Be inaulu wawanmaggemai nie;
suemola bedi yoemai,
be burba, Nan burba mogir inbaba.

Oloeaidiili be suggedi dinnaguemai,
anmar nuggi, gwenad an be daggsuli;
anai dii emi be ibagi, an bega soge Anna Diianai.


Big brother river, you who are before me
since the beginning of time; I invoke you,
to your tributaries to your subterranean origins.

You who cross like a great medicinal canoe,
giving away your milk to everyone
in each trip of the moon in its canoe through the sky.

Mother Olonubdiigili, your golden liquids
they travel, and fall radiant as gold on their way;
in your shining tributaries.

Mother Maninubdiigili, your silver liquids
They run and shine like silver
like argentas on the road.

Mother Inanubdiigili, your fragrant
medicinal waters such as essences of basil;
breaths of goggedili, nunabdili.

Mother Igwanubdiigili; give me your strength
and your love; to stop the merchants
who profit from your milk.

Your trembling medicinal canoe is;
with a rainbow mola outfit,
your strength, spirit of the Mother among the clouds.

Oloeaidiili your stream is drying up,
because of us, I no longer see you as a sister;
My friend water today, I tell you Anna Diianai (hello friend water).

Poetry 01


is the full moon

on your moon,

it’s your smile 

in my sadness,

it’s dawn

in my sunset,

poetry is the blossoming

of the dilla at dawnby dillanii… *

* dilla [dil´la] in Kuna (language) is palo santo plant, and dillani [dil´lanii] is the palo santo moon or the month of March.

Poetry 02

Poetry is the delicate

Kuna woman’s hands

that transform the threads and fabrics

in multicolored verses in their molas

at sunset in Kuna Yala.

And in her early mornings

her calloused hands lift the hot pans

to prepare breakfast

to the future slingshot rebels,

heirs of February 25.


Maninaindi R. Roldan. G


The universe and
their hugs manifest
in designs
in black symbols
in alchemical forms.

There are hidden truths
in its geometry / lines that join us

The recipient skin of legacies
serves as a fragile canvas
where they rest from their long journeys.

It is in it that they live/migrate/mutate
               	they return to being simple cosmic lines.

Next to my memory you are

You are the force that sustains my struggles
The hug that protects me from strangers

Your old war is today my shield
/ My award
Your flag ⎯symbol of rebellion and courage⎯ is my spear
That's why I thank you dear grandfather who inhabits my memory
That's why I thank you dear grandmother for your sacrifice

Today as children of February we fight to deserve your name
To rock the Matria that so many of us love

I wave the flag of rebellion
                              of the sacrifice
                                                  and life


We have the season of the hummingbird.

A season of sighs.

A season of echoes and nostalgia.
Of jar and song.

And in that space where time sings
you are the point of this hour

the minute in the cloud.

About the Gunadule Authors

Dad Neba Nelson De León Kantule is a Gunadule essayist, scholar,  and activist. His name, Dad Neba, in the Kuna indigenous language, means, “Grandfather of the Plain”, with that name identifies Nelson De León Kantule, great grandson of Nele Kantule, Kuna indigenous communicator / Director of the Napguana Association. E-mail: and

Taira Edilma Stanley Icaza is a Gunadule activist, poet and scholar. Taira graduated from the Bachelor of Science in Education with a Post-graduate degree in Higher Teaching. She is a member and activist of the Kuna Youth Movement (MJK) and other international indigenous organizations. She went to Bolivia to study for her master’s degree at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés and works at the Office of Indigenous Peoples at the University of Panama.

Cebaldo Inawinapi De León is an author, artist, poet, and Gunadule anthropologist born on the Island of Usdub, Autonomous Region of Gunayala, Panama. Inawinapi lives between Portugal and Panama and is the author of the book My First Tree: An Sabbi Iduged (2019). He is also the protagonist in the film, Panquiaco, and is part of the documentary, LucíaMor: La Mola de Lucía. Learn more about Inawinapi here.

Atencio López is Gunadule from the Autonomous Region of Gunayala, Panama. He is an author, poet, and attorney for Indigenous, Commercial, Criminal, and Civil Law. He studied at the Faculty of Law and Politics at the University of Panama and obtained his Master’s Degree in Commercial Law at the Universidad Interamericana de Panamá. For several years, Atencio has held various positions in Panamanian and international indigenous organizations. Learn more about Atencio here

Kinyapiler Johnson González is a Gunadule poet, artist, and cultural activist. He was born on the island of Usdub, Autonomous Region of  Gunayala, Panama. He studied at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Panama. In addition, Kinyapiler served as administrator of the Guna General Congress on a few occasions, is a member and activist of the Kuna Youth Movement (MJK), and a founding member of the Ibeler Wagan Theater Collective.
Maninaindi R. Roldan. G. is a Gunadule poet, artist, and psychologist born on the island of Usdub, Gunayala, Panama. He studied at the University of Panama and has a degree in psychology. As an artist, he participated together with the Igar Yala Collective in the making of the film Burwa Dii Ebo (The wind and the water), an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival 2008. He is the author of the book, Demonios en mi desierto (2019).

For more about Gunadule art and literature

More about Sue Patricia Haglund

She is a Gunadule poet and scholar from Panama and the U.S., and holds a PhD in Indigenous Politics from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She researches the works of contemporary Gunadule poets whose poetry reflect the cultural metamorphosis of the actualized transformation of Gunadule oral tradition and poetry that speak against colonialism and empire. Her poem, “Conversaciones con mi abuelo,” was published in the first anthology of Gunadule poetry, Antología de Poetas Kunas (Panama City, 2015), and she has published several book chapters in edited volumes, including Indigenous Interfaces: Spaces, Technology, and Social Networks in Mexico and Central America (2019).

A selection of contemporary Gunadule literature © Sue Patricia Haglund ~ Siwar Mayu, May 2022

Shunku-yay / Looking at Each Other Through the Infinite of the Heart. Samay Cañamar M. 

Shunku-yay / Mirarse en la eternidad del corazón
© Samay Cañamar M.

Translation from Kichwa © Fredy A. Roncalla

Ilustrations © Manai Kowii

If you prefer to read the PDF, click HERE


Shunku-yay arawi kamuni, runa shimipi, mishu shimipi killkashka kan. Ñukanchik allpa mamata kuyashpa charinamanta rimapan, shinallata runa warmikunapa kawsaymantapash riman.

Shunku-yay / Looking at Each Other Through the Infinite of the Heart is a collection of poems in Kichwa and Spanish that was born as a cry for empathizing with sacred Mother Earth as well as with the body of Indigenous women and their reality.


Kallari willkay

kikin achiklla muskuywan,
kay munayta, kay shimita, kay rurayta watachinayan.
Allilla, kikin sumaklla ukuman yaykunkapak.

Kikinpa samaywan kay ñankunapi kumpatukunayan,
kucha manyakuman yaykunayan,
urku chakikumanta puri kallarinayan,
chakra manyakumanta tarpunayan,
kikin wasi ñawpakuman kimirinayan.

Minkachiway apukulla.
Minkachiway allpa mamakulla.
Kikin chaskikkunaman willapaylla. Mayllak shunkumari shamukuni,
upalla supaykunawanmari minkarimukuni.

Minkachiway, sumak kawsak samaylla, willka kuskalla.
Kikin wasiman, mayuman chayamunimi,
kuri allpakuta kay shunkuwan takarinkapak shamupanimi.

Minkachiway kikin ukshakupi, kikin apu pintukupi,
paktalla muskuykuta karawankilla,
usharinalla ushaykuta mikllachiwaylla,
tukuy llaki kawsayta kaypi uriyakuchichun sakiwaylla,
kikinpa rimaypi rikcharinkapak,
shinashpa samashkatapash tullpushpa sakinkapak.

puyu killpamukpi,
inti llukshimukpi, 
tamya urmamukpi,
kikin rimamukuwankimi yasha.

(Kallari willkay)


I ask for your permission

to enter into your realm

while I gently gather my desires

acts and words

with clear dreams.

I wish to talk about your time

in these paths,

arrive to your lake’s edge

get closer to your house’s entrance

and start my path 

at the foot of  the mountains.

I ask for your permission, dear Apu.

Give me permission, dear Mother Earth.

My body has been getting ready

and my soul wants some rest.

Welcome me,

sacred place that gives breath

to good ways of living.

I am arriving to your house and your river

to touch you, blessed land, with this heart.

Let the deepest dreams come

blessing me with your powers.

Let me go beyond all my tears

and wake up in this conversation

full of colorful and breathing words.

With the rain coming down

I will hear your words

talking to me.

© Manai Kowii

Ñukanchik allpa mamaka tawka kawsak apukunata, samaykunatapashmi charin, paykunapi tukuy pachapi kawsamushka kan. Kay wakakunaka, hatun ushaykunatami charin, hatun samaykunatapash, chaymi paykunapa wasikunaman yaykunkapakka, minkachiway nishpa yaykuna kashkanchik. Shinami paykunata rezashpantin, takishpantin, rimachishpantin yaykuna kanchik. Urkuman rikushpaka, minkachiway ninami nishpa hatun taytakunaka yachachishka kan. Ima chakrata tarpunkapak kallarikushpapash, minkachiway nishpa yaykuna kashka ninmi hatun mamakunapash. 

Chashnami shuk wakakuta minkachiway nishpa kallarikrinchik. Wakakunaka mana warmillaka kanchu, mana karillaka kanchu, shuk shuk ushaykunami watarishka paykunapika, wakinpika warmi, wakinpika kari, shina rikurin punta rimaykunapi, shutikunapi, ima ruraykunapipash. 

Mother nature/allpa mama is constituted by several bodies and time-spaces or pachas. Sacred territories or wakas with their own powers, where we cannot enter without first asking permission, through prayers, greetings, chants, whistles.

Minkachiway is the beginning of an entering ritual to a space. The grandfathers say minkachiway when they start walking at the foot of a mountain. The grandmothers ask permission for announcing the arrival at a chakra/crop. The nights before a purification bath ritual, one reaches the water spring by saying minkachiway, just as one announces her own arrival to someone else’s house.

This is how we now enter a waka or a sacred place such as our apus, spirits of the mountain with diverse powers beyond the feminine and masculine, personified in names, actions, and stories.

Warmi Imbabura 

Urku apu

Uksha pampawan killparishka warmimi
kuyaylla yana ñawiku, kalluyashka makiku,
tukuy wiwakunapa, yakukunapa, apu warmi.
Kikin umapika, Illull kuchata,
Chakishka kuchata,
Hatun kuchatapash chashkikunki,
paykunaka tamyapa ñañakunami
pakcha tukushpa, urku umakuta Wayku Chupakaman shamunakun.

Urkumanta hatun apu, hatun warmi kanki.
Uchilla michik wawakunata pampapi pukllachinki,
yana pumawan rimarishpa kawsashkanki,
atukkunaman alli rikuna ushayta karashkanki,
kikin wakakunapi sumaklla ushaykuta allichinki.

Intika paypa chawpi ñanpi kakpimi,
allpa samay pachata wayrawan kushilla takinki.
Kikintikukunaka kikin willayta aparimunmi,
waykukunaka chashkinkapak ashtawan paskarinmi.
Tukuykunami kikin apu punchapi kushiyanakun.
Kikinka kutin, pakta pakta kawsayta 
ashankakunapi churashka shuyanki.

Imbabura woman

Mountain deity

Covered by grasslands

—deep eyes and working hands—

you are the great mother of children

animals and rivers.

Your summit is Lake Illull,

Lake Chakishka,

Lake Hatun.

Their waterfalls and the rain

come down 

valleys and crevices.

Great woman, 

you come from inside the sacred spaces

play with the shepherd girls,

live talking with a black puma,

teach the foxes certain powers,

and keep the magic in your wakas.*

The sun is at the middle of his path

and you sing with august winds.

The hummingbirds bring us your message

and the valleys open up to receive us.

This day all the apus* celebrate.

You hold a well balanced basket

and wait for us.

* wakas and apus are sacred spaces, especially mountains

© Manai Kowii

Ñukanchikka, sinchi ushaykunami kanchik, wayrakuna, ninakuna, yakukuna, allpakunapashmi kanchik. Chay ushaykunataka wakinpika mana riksishpallatami chinkaririnalla kanchik.

We are also spirit that mutates within air, fire, wind, water, mother earth. An infinite force that very few of us manage to experience fully.

Samaymi kani

Samaymi kani.
Kuyurishpa, mirarishpa ashtawan kuyurik.
Sinchilla, tinkushna tantarik, tukyarik.
Paypantin mirarishka tullpushka puchkashna kawsakuk.
Paypura chimpapurarishka,
tukyarishka, mushukyarishka samay.

Ñawpamanta churu laya muyurishka kawsay
shamuk pachamantapash
kuntur yuyaywan sinchi watarishka.

Wayrapa shunku kani
kikinman samayta karakuk;
tukuy manchanayaylla uyariktapash mishkilla uyayta karak:
shuk taki sami shina
asha asha kay pachapa yuyayta takarishpa purik.

Pukyu ñawikushna kuyaylla kani,
urku apukunapa kasiyashka kawsay,
akapanashna kuyurikuk allpa
maytapash pawakuk ushay,
upalla kawsaypipash ima ninata allichishka.

Hatun sumak ushay kani
pachawan awarishka muyuni, 

I am vital energy

I am vital energy.

One that grows moving.

I am strength and confluence.

A renewed energy

standing up

and exploding.

My life is the spiral of the past

and what comes ahead

tied up by the wisdom of a Condor.

I am the heart of the wind

that nurtures your vital energy

and makes the tremors of fear

sound gently.

I  am like a spiritual song

touching all the memories of the universe.

I have the beauty of a fresh water spring

of quiet mountains

vast and exalted lands

and silence.

I am young and beautiful.

I go on clothed by the land.

Moving on and on.


Imatak kan killkanaka niwarkami
Chayka imashachari nanay shunkuta tuksimurka, yuyaytapash, makitapash nanachirka.
Chay yashka kipaka nirkani;
Killkashpaka ankashnami kay kawsaypi muyurini…

Shina nishka kipapash, uchilla kaspishnallami ukuta upalla tuksimukurka.
Punta kawsayta yarishpa llakiyarkani,
Imatapash chushayachishka shina karkani.

Punta watakunapika, tullukaman chayaktami waktashpa llikata killkanata yachachishka.
Shuklla apunchikmanta nishpa sarumushka,
Shuk shimillami tiyana nishpa. Shuklla runakunallami allikuna yashpa.
Ñukanchik yachaykunataka kuchushpa, ñuka wasi allpata nallikachishpa.
Tawkalla sami kawsaykunata wañuchishpa.

Imasha chay llika kanchikman chayamushkata yarishpa, imashalla ñukanchik pampakunata, awashkakunata, makikunata chushayachishkata rikuni,
tukuy puchkakunapa, kururukunapa samaykunata llakini.
Chay kawsaykunataka ñuka ñawika mana rikurkachu, shinapash ñukapakunami kawsarka.

Kunanka tapurinimi, maypitak ñukanchik killkayka.
Chayta yuyakpika, chumpikunami wasi ukuta warkuriyanakun,
chaykunapi puchkawan shuyurishkakunami rimawan,
ñuka hatun mamapa akchata watakuk cintami rikurimun,
ñuka hatun taytapa awashka katanami ukllamuwan,
ñuka anakupa kinkukunami kumpanakuwan.

Kutin imashpata killkanki nishpa tapukpika.
Ñuka yuyaykunata hampinkapak nimanmi.
Punta punchapika tullutapash nanachishka llikami
kunanpika ñuka shimiwan awarishka, samayachishpa kayman chayman llukshikun. 

To write

They have asked me: what is writing?

A heartfelt confusion spread across time,

memory and my hands.

After a few seconds I answered: 

Writing liberates me.

But there was a splinter silently bothering me.

I was swamped by nostalgia

and emptiness. 

Growing in the mist of memories

an ambiguous voice screamed inside

Bringing rain drops to my face.

I know that at one point in time 

the alphabet was forced upon us punch by punch.

With a God, lord,

King, and language, 

that would mutilate knowledge and sweep my gardens

killing diversity.

Thinking about the origins of this alphabet 

I can feel how they emptied my fields, weavings and hands. 

I feel the threads and their designs are no longer there. 

It’s a loss that my eyes did not see but was felt by my people.

I ask myself: where is our writing?

And hanging from the roof

there are weavings appearing in front of me:

figures drawn with wool thread,

the band that holds grandmothers hair,

the manta that my grandfather did with his life,

the zigzag I carry in my skirt.

If they were to ask me again why I write

I would repeat: to heal memory and remembrance.

Now I am healed with what at one point tied our bones.

I now write with their letters. 


Samay Cañamar M., warmi kichwa Otavalomanta, yachachik, feminista, shinallatak psicoterapeutami kan. Arawikunatapash, ima killkanatapash ashtakata killkanata allikachinmi. Shinallatak runa warmikuna imashalla kawsaymantapash ashtakatami rikuchinkapak munan; feminismoskunamantapash.

About the poet

Samay Cañamar M. is kichwa from Otavalo, Ecuador. She is a university professor, a feminist, and a psychotherapist. She writes in Kichwa and Spanish, and  is interested in Indigenous feminisms, and contemporary struggles of women and feminized bodies. @tsay.samay

More about Samay Cañamar M.

About the translator

Fredy A. Roncalla was born in Chalhuanca, Apurimac, Peru in 1953. He has studied linguistics and literature, in addition to a long journey in Andean Studies, with a special focus on aesthetics. He is also a handcraft artist who works with recycled materials. He has published poetry and essays in diverse online and printed publications. He is the author of Canto de pájaro o invocación a la palabra (Buffon Press, 1984); Escritos Mitimaes: hacia una poética andina postmoderna (Barro Editorial Press, 1998); Hawansuyo Ukun words (Hawansuyo/Pakarina Ediciones, 2015); and Revelación en la senda del manzanar: Homenaje a Juan Ramírez Ruiz (Hawansuyo/ Pakarina, 2016). He is currently working on Llapan llaqtan: narrativa y poesía trilingüe/ Llapan llaqtan: trilingual poetry. His trans-Andean projects can be found in the virtual ayllu: Hawansuyo Peruvian Bookstore,, and

Shunku-yay / Mirarse en la eternidad del corazón © Tsaywa Samay Cañamar M.Translation from Kichwa © Fredy A. Roncalla 
Siwar Mayu, May 2022

Around the House. Maya Cú

Original poetry in Spanish from Alrededor de la casa © Maya Cú

Introduction, selection and translation by Gloria E. Chacón and Juan G. Sánchez Martínez

If you prefer to read the PDF, click HERE

Kaqchikel researcher Aura Estela Cumes explains that paternalistic culturalism in Guatemala represents the Mayan woman as a tourist object, a museum piece, a weaver and guardian of culture, but at the same time separates her from the possibility of being an “epistemic authority.”  Maya Cú captures this sexist paternalism in the following verses:

(...) to be clear:
I am not
an ancestral clay doll
revived by divine breath
of postmodern intellectuals.

Since 1996, Maya Cú has been reminding Guatemalan—and by extension Latin American— society how scared they are to look in the mirror and discover how brown, how cinnamon, how mixed they are, how  “beautifully brown” [they are] (“Rabia / Rage”.) In her essay “Poetas y escritoras mayas de Guatemala: Del silencio a la palabra” (“Mayan Women Poets and Writers from Guatemala: From Silence to Word”) (2016), Cú questions the censorship of colonial institutions (school, family, church) of Indigenous women voices, but also interrogates the self-censorship of Indigenous women. In some cases, Indigenous women do not recognize themselves as writers (84). In Cú’s words, the expectations of editors and academics about Indigeneity (as a rural and ethnic problem) preclude them from recognizing the diversity of contemporary Mayan expressions. The poems that we publish here are a sample of Maya Cu’s latest book, Alredor de la casa (“Around the house”) (La Chifurnia, 2022). 

It was never
more than a shelter
from the outdoors

it had
fragile walls

there we cohabited
my sisters

it was the house
it is the house

root of
a human

and that woman
a column
who refuses
to let it fall

An aseismic house
must have a strong foundation
a deep iron frame

when the earthquake comes,
the house will hardly fall

What if this tenant does not have a good foundation?

Wooden walls
vulnerabile before fire

aluminum walls avert rain
but lock the heat in

cement ceilings and walls
protect from rain, sun, fire

how to avoid loneliness?
how does one defend oneself from sadness?
how to build
kick-proof walls?

who designs houses
that shelter, feed, protect
and provide endless doses
of understanding and tenderness?

For those in the room. Managua, 2002

We live together
we recreate love

we strip
our skins

we listen to each other
we fight
we laugh, we play
we were girls
we cry

we were
the women
from that room
killing borders
a new house
from which we didn't 
want to leave

a refuge
with sisters and mothers
in a constant coven
giving us freedom

There is a lot to do
a lot to do

we will rearrange space

the cardinal points
will be oriented in the direction
of heaven

the moon
will be full
for a long time
the rainy cloud will come
at night
to sleep on the terrace

where will we put
the fog?
the balcony that is
on its way
will gladly share
its flower

you will have an infinite 
to set up
your wildest exhibition

for me
I just want the corner
from where I will
see you
my love
and disarming the world
Where can a young heart go, wounded by distance, melancholy, disdain, if the house is half built? If the walls are fragile and the floor is damp? Seeking refuge without finding it. Leaves running naked, to shelter in other hungry hearts for company.
I aged

pieces of me
scattered throughout

I moved
by inertia

I left seeds
in some eyes
in some bodies

I left
almost empty

now I carry
white hair
nostalgia, pain

I pick up
my pieces
I put them in a bag
and I go out

and I can't find anything
but sadness...

I dreamed
of a house
surrounded by flowers
and tall trees
I only asked for a
roof and floor
I never had it
a provider
of certainty appeared
He daily
next to me
this new house
in mutual discovery
we are laying
the foundations
we make the walls
we share the dream
to put our pieces together
to build a new house
where we will live

Today I undressed
I posed for
the camera
the room  strewn with
clothes throughout
my footprints
when I stopped
I realized
all the mirrors
I found my body
friendly and passionate
and it was enough for me

knows that upon her return
she will open the door
and feel joy to meet you
for coffee
for dipping  bread
in  coffee
to the listen to the radio
and dance to the beat of your song
knows that upon his return
he will remove the wire from the gate
cross the patio to reach
your side
he will greet you happily
because he managed to finish a day’s work
because the earth responds to his care
the sun was benevolent and did not burn his skin
the rain is generous and will fall later
he will show you the best seeds
that he found
for the next sowing
they will eat next to the stone-bench 
beans and hot coffee
corn tortillas from their harvest
and cheese
like them

Elena visits the house


Strange communion with Elena

Did you hear my name?
You looked for it and you preferred it, because you know that here, behind this nomenclature, my soul is waiting for a reunion celebration.
But, the only celebration we put up today is one of tears.
Time and time again, the weeping, why unites our hearts like this? Is our sorrow for these beloved cities so great that it is capable of uniting our distant melancholies?


girls reunion

Painting that afternoon would be fun if Elena was calm enough to pose.
But Elena is a restless girl who bites her nails and spits the waste on the chair. She wets her feet in the firm sand of a sea that cannot be crossed. A sea that erased the way back to the city of our daydream, our dream, our ephemeral root, our space of communion. I, the little sister, watch her carefully, while I wait for time to stop on this piece of beach, asking Yemayá to take care of us, to be our mother, our goddess, our friend, our compass, to return to that city.


The one I’m not

elegance in the word
voice and erudition
corporeal strength
unattainable height
charismatic presence
a story that I would like as my own
feet dancing on the urban cobbled street
sand full of your feet
water full of your fear
lips reciting verses next to Reynaldo

eyes alive of revolution
flashing fingers
mestizo song 
eternal song 
cheerful song
song with tone
song with you
your song
my song
Song  not yet written
half song
song without score
broken song
shared song
song in two rhythms
distant song
sad song without reason
sad permanent weep
never ending pain
intimate pain
pain countering
parallel pain
the one you are not
the one we are



If I ever belonged to someone
it's to you
because you chose me
or because my shadowy female ancestor 
chose you


Grandma whisks cocoa
gathers the fire
secures the ocote-sticks
the girl braids garlic
draws a circle,  and skeletons 
rise dancing at its center
inviting to swing
a song
of few notes
I dance
the mist fills with colors
I rise
the image
is immortalized
behind the door

More about Maya Cú

The Translators

Gloria E. Chacón is Associate Professor in the Literature Department at UCSD. Both her research and teaching focus on indigenous literatures, autonomy, and philosophy. She is the author of Indigenous Cosmolectics: Kab’awil and the Making of Maya and Zapotec Literatures (2018). She is currently working on her second book tentatively titled Metamestizaje, Indigeneity, and Diasporas: Challenging Cartographies. She is co-editor of Indigenous Interfaces: Spaces, Technology, and Social Networks in Mexico and Central America by Arizona Press(2019). She is also co-editing an anthology Teaching Central American Literature in a Global Context for MLA’s Teaching Options Series. Chacón’s work has appeared in anthologies and journals in Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, and the USA. She has co-edited a special issue on indigenous literature for DePaul University. .\

Juan G. Sánchez Martínez, grew up in Bakatá, Colombian Andes. He dedicates both his creative and scholarly writing to indigenous cultural expressions from Abiayala (the Americas.) His book of poetry, Altamar, was awarded in 2016 with the National Prize Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia. He collaborates and translates for Siwar Mayu, A River of Hummingbirds. Recent works: Muyurina y el presente profundo (Pakarina/Hawansuyo, 2019); and Cinema, Literature and Art Against Extractivism in Latin America. Dialogo 22.1 (DePaul University, 2019.) He is currently an associate professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville, in the Departments of Languages and Literatures, and of American Indian and Indigenous Studies.

Alrededor de la casa © Maya Cú ~ Siwar Mayu, April 2022
Introduction, selection and translation © Gloria E. Chacón and Juan G. Sánchez M. 

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