Spanish officials in eastern Panamá believed that Christianized Indians would serve as surrogates for Spanish settlers or troops, and their attempts to administer the region were grounded upon establishing alliances with selected Indian leaders. At the same time, pirates and other intruders also saw the need for alliances with Indian men in order for their endeavors to succeed. Through a process in which Europeans and Indians played an equal part, the early modern period saw the creation of several new indigenous leaders. The chieftains who interacted with outsiders were forced to create new ways of ruling on the ground as they navigated through an evolving colonial world in the Darién. This world was clearly built upon indigenous models, though it was not exactly indigenous. And though it drew upon European administrative forms and symbols for a good portion of its legitimacy, it was not recognizably European either.

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