A People Who Would Not Kneel begins with a one-chapter overview of Kuna history and cosmology. James Howe then identifies various difficulties Kunas faced at the beginning of the twentieth century: internal strife, religious encroachment, and foreign aggression. These challenges to Kuna culture produced a cast of colorful characters: English-speaking Kuna activists, Catholic and Protestant evangelists, and U.S. and Panamanian officials intent on exploiting the Kuna homeland.

A Kuna by the name of Charlie Robinson figures prominently in this story. He spent years at sea with English-speaking fishermen, then returned home to the north-central island of Nargana in 1902. His English-language skills and rejection of Kuna cosmology made Robinson a lightning rod for traditionalists and for Westerners (wagas—a term used for all non-Kuna) wishing to infiltrate Kuna culture. Such was the case during the 1905-7 period when Robinson found himself in the...

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