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Research and educational projects conducted within indigenous areas

STRI Permits Frequently Asked Questions

Please send the completed permit application package to the scientific permits office: Because this application package contains sensitive, private information, all documents must be submitted through a secure transfer service or an encrypted email, with the password called in by phone or on a separate email.

Most work within indigenous areas in Panama requires an informed consent letter—a written authorization on the letterhead of the indigenous group, signed and sealed or stamped by the indigenous authorities in the place where the research will take place.


Some Indigenous areas are designated as Comarcas. Check to see if the area you selected is within a Comarca.

  1. Due to the complexity of obtaining authorizations for work in indigenous areas, we recommend that you begin by paying a preliminary visit to the area. Previous personal contact with indigenous authorities is often the key to the success of a subsequent request for permission or authorization.
  2. You will need permission from the ultimate authority (chief) in each of the communities where research is scheduled to be conducted.

Requirements vary depending on the community. The informed consent letter will depend on:

  1. Ongoing consultation with the highest authority in the community.
  2. Use of onsite translators.
  3. Respect for the culture and community.
  4. Protection of and respect for indigenous knowledge and life style.
  5. Intellectual property, confidentiality and access to the final research results.
  6. Access to data and information from the chief or members of the community.
  7. Expectations of the research study.
  8. Developing methodology with the community chief or special members.
  9. Analysis of information.

For work in Guna Yala, you should contact the Kuna Congress Office directly, in person. The Congress is located in Balboa, Panama City. We can provide the address and telephone upon request ( To apply the following information/documents are required in your application package:

  1. Research Proposal to conduct research within indigenous areas completed in Spanish (See list of independent translators that you may contact directly).
  2. Once your project is approved by the indigenous group, you must obtain the Informed Consent Letter on letterhead, duly signed and sealed/ stamped by each of the indigenous groups/communities where research will take place.

NOTE: If working within and indigenous area, a MiAmbiente, INAC, or MICI permit request must also include the Informed Consent Letter from those groups. INAC permit requests may also require you to comply with Smithsonian Directive 606 “Research Involving Human Subjects.” Overflights or the use of drones will require authorization from AAC.

NOTE: Please plan to obtain your Informed Consent Letter at least three (3) months in advance of expected arrival at STRI.

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