Message from the Director 2023

Message from the Director 2023

Greetings to everyone from our high desert home in Corrales, New Mexico. After months and months of bone dry weather, we finally received the blessing of several days of light rain and snow in November. There was a stretch between April and August where we had gone 77 days without any moisture at all. Appreciating even the smallest rainstorm or just a mist on your face and the smell of moisture to let you know the rain is close at hand.

The Tracking Project Logo

It is hard to believe that we have entered into our 38th year of operations as a not-for- profit organization offering classes, camps and trainings in Natural and cultural awareness. What really puts it into perspective for me is that next year (2024), I will be the same age that Uncle Jimmy James was the year that I met him. I was 29 and he was 72 — so he thought it was funny to call me “Old Fella.” In the same spirit, I called him “Young Fella.”

Through my friendship with Uncle Jimmy, I learned of his life as a Pitjantjatjara man and his exploits as a professional tracker trained in the “old ways.” He was a national icon in Australia, the real deal,  demonstrating his incredible skills tracking lost persons as well as murderers, arsonists, and escaped criminals.

The teachings he shared with me and the lessons learned from our many adventures over the next years became the foundation of the work of The Tracking Project. This is a photo of him I took at the Adelaide bus station when we went to pick up his daughter, Alice, back in 1981, soon after we met.

 To read more about Uncle Jimmy and another influential Aboriginal educator and tracker who led me to him — Kevin “Dookie” O’Loughlin — visit:

Uncle Jimmy James full shot
Uncle Jimmy James

The Evolution of our programs and the strategy of the mentor program

The natural evolution of The Tracking Project’s programs from time spent with Uncle Jimmy in Australia to a global family of tracking teachers makes for a great story. In its application, the art and science of “tracking” proved itself to be an efficient and exciting vehicle for our work with indigenous youth. All over the world, people were fascinated to learn how to “read the ground” and how to live lightly on the Earth through the practice of the ancient survival or “life” skills. Blowing the yirdaki, making fire, building a shelter, reading subtle signs of Nature… Cary Odes, one our staff members, has likened the skill of tracking to having a
“super power.”

Guided by the wisdom of numerous Native elders, we began to design our camps for youth and adults and then watched as the work spread around the world. Hawkeye Training (a skills camp for young men); Dreamtracking ® (a skills camp for young women); Youth & Elder Gatherings with Native communities; Women’s Awareness Trainings, tracking camps for the general public; Tracking the Roots of Peace gatherings with Native elders … Whenever a new request for our services came in, we designed a program to meet the situation.

Once we found out what exercises worked the best, we designed our curriculum. The young people enjoyed learning skills, so we designed our programs of natural and cultural awareness to include a wide range of skills—from traditional tracking and survival skills to music, storytelling, dance, peacemaking and martial arts training. The name Arts of Life ® was chosen to describe these programs, which emphasize indigenous knowledge, the lessons of Nature and the power of art.

And once we had the Arts of Life curriculum, we were encouraged by other elders to create a global network of educators who would share this work internationally.

Nurturing the Roots ® NTR — our global community mentor program

There is no comparison between the results of teaching a class of students and teaching a class of teachers. The difference is exponential. Through Nurturing the Roots we created an international group of 250 practitioners of our Tracking Project curriculum which had already been “field-tested” on more than 100,000 students. Though it was difficult to sustain the forward motion of NTR for nearly 20 years, we listened to our Elders — especially the late Parley Kanaka’ole from Hana, Maui — who stressed over and over that we needed to push ahead with our work, because there would come a time in the future, he said, “when this work will become very difficult.”

“You will need to have your people in place.”

To read more about the creation of the mentor circle, please visit:

How right Parley was!

So when we were forced to hunker down due to the COVID pandemic in 2020, our international travels were immediately canceled. Some (if not most) of our camping programs were discontinued because of the difficulties of asking other people to travel. But our network had been built and our people were in place. We adapted to the moment by moving to virtual sessions, at the same time realizing that being forced to gather virtually actually allowed us to bring our mentors from around the world together in a different way.

Since 2021, through phone calls, WhatsApp and Zoom sessions, we are able to meet on a regular basis with our mentors in Hawai’i, Australia, Brasil, Sweden and all around the United States. I don’t think that the mentor trainings could have been accomplished virtually. But the people who had been trained “in actuality” over the prior two decades could be advised virtually.

Is it possible that we are busier now than we have ever been — but in a different way?

In the past year our weeks have been filled with a variety of activities. In addition to the mentor work, we have continued our monthly dream circles (we have already held more than 40 of them!), local talks, leadership gatherings and seminars here in New Mexico.

Some of our seminars in the last year included:

* A presentation on the Thanksgiving Address and leadership skills for the staff of Back to Earth, at the invitation of mentor Eli Marienthal (;

* A training for the staff of Full Circle camp at the invitation of mentor Sean Etigson

* And a weekend of tracking and talks with the congregation of the First United Presbyterian Church in Las Vegas, New Mexico at the invitation of Pam Abreu and others who wanted to look at the idea of tracking ones’ spirituality.

We also managed the sales of our Tracking Project products, including our posters, apparel and the Thanksgiving Address : Greetings to the Natural World in 11 different language editions. This popular book continues to move around the world with a life and a mind of its own.

Thanks to Dr. Kathleen Kelly and welcome to Roxanne Garcia.

We are sad to say that after 5 years as our Office Manager and almost 20 years as a mentor of the Project, Dr. Kathleen Kelly has moved on to new projects here in New Mexico. Her work with us has been impeccable and we send her our deepest gratitude and best wishes in her new ventures. Joining our team in the office as the new Manager is Roxanne Garcia, who with her husband — Colin Daly — and their 9 month old, Calea, have been students of the Project through prior camps and gatherings. We welcome the new additions to our family.

Nanao at 100: Poems of Land Life

Last year at this time we were working on a short film which we produced to honor our friend, revered Japanese poet Nanao Sakaki. We released it on January 1, 2023 — what would have been his 100th birthday. The movie shares some behind-the-scenes stories of a remarkable poetry tour that took poet Gary Snyder, Nanao and myself on a 6 week tour of urban and tribal communities in Australia in September and October, 1981. The tour took several years to plan and it involved meeting and reading with Aboriginal poets and songmen all around Australia.

Nanao passed in 2008, but a group of poets and friends from around the world joined together for this special birthday event. Our film was produced with the help of cinematographer Bjarni Haraldsson.

You will find the announcement for the movie on the new Poetry & People tab on our website, together with a list of others who contributed to Nanao’s birthday party. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, please visit:

Dreams and Dreaming:

On-going monthly Dream Circle

Sharing dreams in a daily dream circle has been a feature of all Tracking Project camps and trainings since we started our work. How often the things we are tracking come to visit us in our dreams. Learning to remember our dreams, to share them with others and to work at tracking the imagery in the dream is such a valuable skill.

Over the past few years of not running camps, we decided to offer an online Dream Circle. Since 2018, a dedicated group of adult dreamers, meeting on the first Friday of each month have gathered via Zoom to look at new perspectives in dreaming and to share our dreams with a small, intimate group of friends. Sessions last 2 1/2 hours. As of this month, we have held the circle 43 times.

For registration and more information please contact us at: 505-898-6967

Cultural Perspectives on Dreams and Dreaming

In addition to the monthly circles, we have been offering a more in-depth dream experience. Starting in 2017 I decided to offer a course on dreams and dreaming that would honor some of the vast knowledge I have gained through decades of work with traditional elders and healers from around the world. Traditional cultures have found an amazing range of styles to express their experiences in the dream world. Using the technique of Dreamtracking ® we look at the ecology of dreams through the eyes of many varied cultures and traditions.

We plan to continue holding two of these gatherings in 2024 — in April and in October — gathering in a private yurt outside of Santa Fe, NM to examine this fascinating topic. Please see the Calendar page of our website for more information.

Dreams and Dreaming by Judy Haas
Dreams and Dreaming by Judy Haas
Dreams and dreaming in a private yurt
Yurt interior
The yurt in Santa Fe


Our special thanks go out to the following foundations and groups — the Attias Family Foundation, the Densmore Family Fund, the Russell Family Foundation, the Edward and Verna Gerbic Family Foundation, and the Ward & Eis Gallery — who offered us much-needed support in the past year. And to the many individual contributors and friends who have pledged themselves to our work — THANK YOU.

YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS — “I’m with you!”

Since 1986 we have maintained a rigorous schedule of community visits, speaking engagements, camps and mentor trainings, inspiring and teaching thousands and thousands of people, young and old.

Your gift of any size can help us spread the word of Natural Awareness, cultural respect and the need to preserve wildlife among the many individuals, organizations, tribes and communities that request our services. The DONATIONS page of our website —

— provides some idea of what we are able to accomplish with donations of varying sizes. There are many ways that you can support us. Several years ago, a few dedicated students and donors chose to make a scheduled monthly contribution via PayPal that continues to this day. We encourage you to join this group! You can also purchase some of our fine apparel or teaching resources such as the Thanksgiving Address, our Thanksgiving Address notecards or our tracks posters.

Finally, you can make a straight donation via PayPal on our DONATIONS page or send us a check via snail mail — “Old School.”

In any case, send us your tax-deductible contribution… and watch the Turtle work!

We send you our Best Wishes for the Holidays and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.


John Stokes
© 2023

The Creator© John Kahionhes Fadden, Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World