Our Arts of Life teams are drawn from a diverse group of artist/educators and traditional Native elders from around the United States. For our work in other countries, we also call on members of our international mentor network. Meet some of the people who are currently working with us.
John Stokes, founder & Director of The Tracking Project, Inc. in Corrales, New Mexico, is a well-known musician, performer, writer and teacher of tracking. Since 1980 he has worked and traveled extensively in his efforts to bring awareness of the natural world and the integrity of indigenous peoples to interested people around the world. Click here for John’s full bio.
Lisa Bennett Matkin
Lisa has been teaching yoga and meditation for close to 25 years. She is known to many through her appearance on the Yoga Zone TV shows and their line of videos. She was the co-director of the Mind Body Therapy Department at Haelth, a complementary Health Care Center in NYC founded by Dr. William Fair of Memorial Slone Kettering where she co-developed a 1000 hour therapeutic yoga teacher training certification program.
She has been on the faculty of Kripalu, Omega, and The Open Center. Lisa is the star of Anchor Bay’s “Healing Yoga” line of videos, which are currently available, and she has participated in writing, developing, and producing over 23 retail videos and DVD releases. She was a contributing Editor at Fit Yoga Magazine, and has also contributed to numerous other publications.
She has been a friend of The Tracking Project since 1999 and has been on the staff since 2012, teaching yoga and wellness at Dreamtracking and Tracking in the Southwest. Lisa completed Nurturing the Roots / New Mexico, The Tracking Project’s three year community mentor program in 2014.
Lisa’s therapeutic teaching style finds inspiration from her own life challenges and experiences, which she shares generously from her heart and spirit to guide others to re-connect with their own uniqueness.
Geri Ayrault has trained and taught with The Tracking Project for the last 20 years, after making an initial connection with John Stokes and his staff at Omega in Rhinebeck, New York in 1990. She has been a core staff member of the Dreamtracking wilderness camp for girls since it began in 1996 and has staffed Tracking Project school and mentor programs in New Mexico and around the US and in Hawaii.
Geri is an artist and a mother to two young daughters and growing Dreamtrackers and has a Masters degree in counseling and a 12 year background as a child and family therapist. Her work with raising and counseling children has deepened her belief in and commitment to helping children, especially girls and young women, become knowledgeable, comfortable and attuned in nature. She feels it is crucial to teach youth about the natural world and the arts and skills to become a wise and respectful presence in wild places. Through this development of comfort, knowledge and a deep sense of gratitude for what the natural world has to offer them, young people will develop into the stewards this earth requires for not only sustainability but true regeneration and healing.
Karen grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. Her Depression – era parents were thrifty; they gardened, composted and recycled. Hunting and fishing, gathering berries, herbs and mushrooms and putting them up for winter was a way of life. Karen’s Auntie Helen used to say ” A lot of healing starts in the kitchen.” Using herbs was always the place to start when anyone was sick. As a bored 11 year old, Karen learned to make baskets from one of her mother’s friends. In the same way, she learned many other skills: beading, leatherwork, tanning, crochet, knitting, spinning, weaving, felting, origami, paper making, and lots of other skills in the age before computer games.
Karen studied botany at the University of Montana. She earned a bookkeeping degree from Montana Tech in 1981 and helped to found the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project ( sustainable systems in and urban setting) in 1984. That same year, she became a partner of the non-profit Garden City Seeds, where she was in charge of the greenhouses and germination testing for over a decade. Karen was a founding member of the Hamilton Farmers Market Coop (where she continues to serve as a board member) and she helped to found the Bitterroot Educational Awareness Resources (BEAR) in 1993, a non-profit environmental education corporation.
Karen met The Tracking Project in 1996 when she was asked to do an herb walk as a guest presenter. She fell in love with firemaking and found that tracking and observation skills helped her make sense of the patterns she had been looking at her whole life.
Karen completed the Tracking Project’s community mentor program in 2014. She has been cooking and teaching about herbs and various crafts at the Dreamtracking camp for girls and the Tracking in the Southwest course for adults since 2000. She currently has a micro farm and greenhouses in western Montana where she sells medicinal herbs at the Missoula & Hamilton farmers markets.
Joel Glanzberg has broad experience in environmental design and ecological restoration projects, particularly in the arid regions of the southwest US and Latin America. He has also worked extensively in the field of regenerative agriculture. An active author and educator in the fields of permaculture and ecological restoration, he is skilled in cross-cultural communication and teaching.
Joel has taught throughout the U.S., and South America, and worked with a number of Native American tribes and communities. . His research has focused on the integration of traditional agricultural/agro-forestry techniques and species from dryland areas worldwide.
Joel is a co-founder of Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute. Flowering Tree¹s half-acre demonstration site at Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, has caught world attention for its low cost, family scale permanent agricultural systems. His work at Santa Clara Pueblo has been featured in Gaia¹s Garden by Toby Hemenway, Natural Home, New Garden Journal, American Horticulturist Magazine, New Mexico Solar Energy Association Journal, Droppings, Designer/Builder Magazine , and The New Garden television show.. He was recently honored by the Center for Sustainable Environments at NAU and the Museum of Northern Arizona for his work with the traditional crops and agriculture of the American Southwest.
Solar was born in the village of Truchas at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico. His parents, seeking a deeper connection to the land, developed a close to self sufficient farm where he fondly remember cultivating the garden in spring time and carrying wood to heat their adobe home in the cold winters.
Like the water that flows down the mountains, his life is taking him through many diverse and beautiful landscapes on its journey to the sea. He has lived in such contrasts as the Puna jungle of the Big Island of Hawaii to within the maze of the Island of Manhattan. He now makes his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Working and sharing with The Tracking Project since 1988, he has found a community of brothers and sisters dedicated to the survival and appreciation of the Natural World on this gift of a planet we call “Home”. Following the tracks of mystery, he now finds work and joy in the diverse ecosystems of Brazil. There The Tracking Project is expanding its work and reaching more youth in their need. Collaborating with like-minded people The Tracking Project has initiated Instituto Projeto Pegadas Brazil, a sister branch of our growing tree of nature awareness. Solar is happy to see the roots of peace finding nourishment from the waters of the Amazon Basin.
As a Health Care Professional, a Teacher of Sustainability, and staff member of The Tracking Project Solar embraces our potential to become One in our diversity.
A webdesigner, singer-songwriter, and theater artist from the Philippines, Geejay is The Tracking Project’s web designer of 15 years. She met the The Tracking Project staff during the TTP mentor training organized by the Initiatives for International Dialogue in Davao City, Mindanao, South of the Philippines. Inspired by the training, she and three other women participants co-founded the all-women performing group Mebuyan Peace Project.
Geejay has been involved with various non-profit organizations doing cultural, international, and peace work for 30 years. As a member of Kaliwat Theater Collective in Davao, Geejay worked alongside indigenous peoples in their quest for their ancestral domains and conducted research on indigenous peoples’ myths, legends, and traditional art forms. Geejay was also communications and popular education coordinator for the Mindanao Commission on Women, where she trained women political leaders in peacemaking. She documented and co-facilitated the commission’s project “If Women Negotiated the Peace Panel”—the results of which were presented to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines GRP) Peace Panels for their series of peace talks in 2008.
Geejay moved to Florida in 2011.
Cary Odes is the Tracking Project‘s on-call Professional Comedian and in-house Mortician. Cary has been performing as a stand up at clubs and colleges across the country since 1980. In 1989 he met John Stokes while they were both working at a men’s conference. That fall, John had him entertaining in a cave during a thunderstorm and teaching wilderness skills he had learned only an hour before.
He has been called upon to mock all of the elders and mentors that pass through the Tracking Project‘s workshops, but especially its director, John Stokes. Mr. Stokes is fond of saying that humor is one of the most vital survival skills. Cary’s reponse is, “Who would you rather be lost in the woods with? John, who could make you a house out of bark, or Cary who could keep you laughing till you died of exposure?”
Cary’s career outside of the Tracking Project includes over twenty appearances on television as a stand up as well as several guest-starring roles as an actor. He has warmed up the audiences on some of the top sit-coms, such as Home Improvement and Mad About You. Cary has taught stand up to teenagers, both in a high school setting and to gang members in prison. He has written for television and co-wrote an award winning short film, which was optioned by Steven Spielberg.
He is divorced and reportedly impossible to live with.
Steven Michael Pague moved to the Hudson Valley to join the founding staff of the Omega Institute in 1982 and continued full time for six years. In those days the staff was very small and everyone wore many hats. He programmed faculty and evening entertainment, hired staff, worked as staff advisor, was part-time security, bought equipment for the campus, hired contractors and was as well the first resident bard (five years). Steven brought his talents as a professional musician, singer/songwriter, recording artist to Omega as well as his leadership skills with large and small groups.
In 1984 Steven began working during the winter months on the “Omega in the Caribean” program as co-director and workshop leader. Since leaving the institute in 1987 to pursue his personal career and development, he has continued into the present with the Omega winter program, together with Stephan Rechtschaffen and the many faculty who teach there. It was in the Caribbean that he began to study with Maurice Haltom, martial and healing arts instructor of Ithaca, NY. Also, in the Virgin Islands he began to work with John Stokes, long time faculty with Omega and founder of The Tracking Project. For the last eight years he has studied and worked as an instructor for The Tracking Project in New Mexico, Montana, the Virgin Islands and New York State.
As a musician he has continued over the years to perform and record his own music in venues around the United States. His most recent recorded work is the sound track of the Secrets of Natural Movement video for The Tracking Project.
Born and raised in the Albuquerque area, Jade grew up traveling with The Tracking Project. A homeschooling education allowed her to experience many cultures and cultivate her own personal Arts of Life skills in addition to teaching natural and cultural awareness through tracking and survival skills. Jade began assisting at courses in 2005, and became a full staff member in 2007 when she completed her first Nurturing the Roots Community Mentor Program alongside participants from the Cottonwood Montessori School (NTR Cottonwood, 2004-2007).
Since 2007 she has completed two further mentor programs, The Tracking Project/ Hawaiian Inside (2008-2010) and Nurturing the Roots / New Mexico (2012-2014). She continues to be a traveling instructor for the organization, assisting projects in Hawai’i, Tahiti, Brazil, and various states in the US. She is also an active organizer and instructor for the annual camps and courses held in The Tracking Project’s home state of New Mexico.
The study of Classic Latin in high school and an extended personal trip to Brazil in 2012 led to a deep love of romance languages; Jade is conversationally fluent in Brazilian Portuguese and is currently working on Spanish. Her knowledge of romance and native languages aids her in dealing with the multilingual correspondence that arrives at the Tracking Project office where she is a part-time assistant.
When she is not working for The Tracking Project, Jade is furthering her double BA in International Studies and Foreign Languages at the University of New Mexico, a degree that combines her love of language, culture, music, dance, and travel. After completing her BA she plans to continue working with people around the world to spread natural awareness, cultural appreciation, and global community and cooperation.
Keith Strever was born on a small farm in Illinois in 1946. He studied history at Illinois Wesleyen College from 1965 to 1967. He served in the U.S. Navy as a radar technician from 1967 to 1971, with two 6-month tours in Viet Nam. In 1972 he moved to New Mexico where he lives to this day.
He has worked as a tree planter off-and-on since 1980. He is a member of the Southwestern Forestry Workers Co-Operative, a private co-op that contracts to the U.S. Forest Service. Keith has personally planted hundreds of thousands of trees.
Interested in wilderness survival and nature awareness, Keith attended the Tom Brown Tracking and Survival School in 1984, where he met John Stokes, who was an instructor there. He reconnected with John when John moved to New Mexico and began working with him in 1985. He has been a cornerstone of The Tracking Project since John incorporated it in 1986.
When he’s not tracking or tree-planting, Keith works as a stonemason.
Master Gregory Vaccaro has been involved with the study of martial arts since 1969, and established his own schools in 1980. Over the years he has influenced thousands of students, with diverse training in the traditional martial arts.
A Master of TaeKwon-Do, he also holds black belt degrees in HapKi-Do, and Arnis, and is well versed in various other arts along with Taiji & Qigong. An eternal student, his open-minded approach has helped him learn from many masters throughout the world.
His extensive knowledge and love for the wilderness/survival arts and his earth minded philosophies permeate his teaching and lifestyle. Greg has worked with John Stokes and The Tracking Project each year since 1987, helping to teach a wide range of courses, including: the “Sacred Circle” gatherings and “Essential Art of Tracking” classes at the Omega Institute; Native youth camps including the Akwesasne Science and Math Pilot Program and Ganondagan Youth and Elder Gatherings; the community mentor project, Nurturing the Roots, 1996-’98; Tracking in Montana and Hawkeye Training camps.
Master Gregory Vaccaro strives to help people attain cultural, spiritual and environmental awakening through the foundation and multi-faceted principles of the martial arts.
Able was born and raised in northern New Mexico. While growing up, he spent much of his time in the mountains, from which he developed a deep respect for the natural world. At a young age he was exposed to Eastern and Native American internal practices, which have helped him to be centered and open-minded.
he began studying the healing arts from his stepfather in 1985, and has continued to learn ever since. In 1992, he traveled to China as a foreign exchange student and began to study acupuncture. In 1996 he received a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine and henceforth has had a private acupuncture and bodywork practice.
Since 1992 he has also been apprenticing with a master of a Taoist internal lineage with roots in ancient China. Working with a daily internal practice that enhances well being, he continues to study, practice, and teach this lineage on a regular basis.
Able has been involved with John Stokes and The Tracking Project since 1986.
NATIVE AMERICAN AND HAWAIIAN MENTORS
Andy was born in 1943 on the Tamiami Trail about 45 miles west of Miami in Collier County, Florida. He grew up around the Big Cypress Preserve and Everglades area, and was raised in the traditional Seminole and Miccosukee culture and way of life. While growing up, he was taught the traditional language, values, arts and skills by his parents and grandparents.
Andy went to work for the Miccosukee Tribal Corporation in 1972, about ten years after the tribe gained official recognition, and has worked for the tribe since that time in various capacities. At the present time, he serves as a Traditional Judge of the Tribal Court, a member of the Corporation Board, and a consultant to the Business Council on matters of Miccosukee culture. He is also employed as a traditional counselor in the tribe’s Human Service Program.
Among Andy’s other interests and pursuits are the treatment of gambling and substance abuse problems, participation in The Tracking Project (a wilderness experience program) and the Santa Fe Council for Environmental Excellence, writing and performing music, and the study and application of traditional Native healing practices.
Andy has worked with The Tracking Project since 1993.
G. Peter Jemison
G. Peter Jemison is a Heron Clan member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. He is the Historic Site Manager of Ganondagan State Historic Site, the site of a 17th century Seneca town located in Victor, New York. Ganondagan is a National Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Peter is also the representative for the Seneca Nation of Indians on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). In addition, he is a professional artist, who in 1998 was honored for ³Excellence in Iroquois Arts² by the Governor of New York State. Mr. Jemison is a graduate of Buffalo State College in Buffalo, New York where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Art Education in 1967. In June 2003, Peter received the State University of New York¹s highest honor an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Buffalo State College. He is currently pursuing graduate work at the State University of New York at Buffalo in American Studies. In February of 2004 Peter was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Association of Museums. He will serve a three year term as a Board Member-at-large.
Peter is the co-editor of TREATY OF CANANDAIGUA 1794, 200 Years of Treaty Relations between the Iroquois Confederacy and the United States. He is a curator of Native American Art recently he authored Haudenosaunee Living Treasures, which appeared in Heritage the magazine of the New York State Historical Association. Other exhibitions he has curated include The PAN-AMERICAN EXPOSITION CENTENNIAL: IMAGES OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN for the Burchfield-Penney Art Center Buffalo, New York, and Stan Hill THE SPIRIT RELEASED A Circle Complete, for the Fenimore Art Museum Cooperstown, New York. His own paintings and drawings have been in two one man exhibitions in 2003. First at the Sales Rental Gallery of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y. and then at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. He had a one man show at the Finger Lakes Community College in April, 2004.
He has also written articles on the repatriation of sacred objects, cultural patrimony, and human remains to the Haudenosaunee( Iroquois Confederacy) and essays about Ganondagan. He currently represents the Seneca Nation of Indians on matters of repatriation.
Dave, a traditional Diné (Navajo) from New Mexico, was born of the Jemez clan, Ma’ii Deeshgiizhinii and born for Todachiinii, the Bitter Water Clan. His maternal grandfather was from the Meadow People Clan and his paternal grandparents were from the Salt Water Clan.
He was raised as an only child in an area outside Ramah by his grandparents. He remembers staying in the woods most of the time, having animals as his first friends. When he was five years old or so, he first entered “civilization,” riding on horseback with his grandmother to the nearby trading post.
After boarding school, evangelistic efforts and his military experience, Dave began searching, studying the Diné way of life and the history of the Diné people to reacquaint himself with who he is. In 1988, he met John Stokes and has worked with The Tracking Project since that time, including: Tracking in the Southwest trips; Native mens’ work; Arts of Life school visits and retreats; Hawaiian ‘Auana camps; and served as a mentor for Nurturing the Roots.
Dave has worked as a peacemaker for the Ramah Navajo community since 1992. He is on the advisory council of The Tracking Project.
A community activist of indigenous and Hispanic descent, PAZ has worked for indigenous rights since 1970. He has been a member of the Chicano Movement, AIM (American Indian Movement), Congress of the Fifth Sun, Huehuetlatokan (Elder’s Council), and Tehtlatol Chichiltik (Red Tradition), which is the dance and ceremonial aspect of the Mexika People of Mexico.
PAZ has been associated with The Tracking Project since 1995 and participated in their Nurturing the Roots project as a Mentor, is a staff member of the Hawkeye Training Camp, and assisted in the Spanish translation of the Thanksgiving Address. PAZ is on the advisory board of The Tracking Project.
In 1971 PAZ began his career as a visual artist and is an accomplished sculptor, painter, and jeweler. He is director of Ehecatl Aztec Dancers and Voladores.
Rita has danced with the Aztec Dance movement for 22 years. She currently serves as the Malintzin for Ehecatl Aztec Dancers.
She has been associated with The Tracking Project since 1994 and participated in their Nurturing the Roots project as a Mentor. She is a staff member of the Dreamtracking Camp and is on the advisory board of The Tracking Project.
Rita is the mother of four.