About an hour upriver from Wekso is Sieyik, the Naso “capital.” It’s a village of about 500 people who live in houses scattered around a lovely hillside overlooking the river.
The center of the village is a clearing that contains the royal residence, a school, and the health post, all of which are made from cinderblocks. The king is assisted by a consejo (board of advisers) drawn from the communities. The Naso reserve the right to switch kings if they become unhappy with him. They can vote him out, but the replacement has to come from the royal family.
They did just that in 2004 when the then-king, Tito Santana, came out in support of the Bonyik dam. The consejo deposed him and named a new king, Valentín Santana. But Tito Santana continues to be supported by some nontraditional Naso. This internal conflict is complicating the struggle to create a Naso comarca.
A visit to Sieyik with a tour operator will likely include a walk around the village and a visit to a traditional home, which may include lunch. Traditional Naso homes are built on stilts of one kind of palm (jira) and the roofs are thatched with another kind (palenquilla). Residents sleep on the soft bark of a rubber tree.
Newer homes use wooden planks for walls and floor, and sometimes have corrugated zinc roofs.
Visits may also include the chance to buy handicrafts, including objects carved from cedar, which are interesting but rarely achieve the level of artistry one sees with Emberá-Wounaan and Kuna works.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition