Message from the Director

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May 15, 2019

Dear Friends,

Greetings to everyone from Corrales, New Mexico, here on the west bank of the Rio Grande where the seasonal movement of the bird populations helps us tell time. Each year in late fall, the sandhill cranes and the snow geese arrive from the north by the thousands. Throughout the winter we hear their calls as they move about the village, congregating and feeding in our fields and along the banks of the Bosque.

Then, in Spring, we hear the trumpet of the cranes as they kettle overhead, gathering the stragglers and making their way north along the river. Two weeks later, large groups of turkey vultures bless the village as they arrive from their winter stay in Mexico. And not long after that, our gardens are vibrant with the sound of the flickers, robins and hummingbirds who follow on the tails of the vultures. It’s a dance that I have observed and listened to for 35 years — and one that I am never tired of.

Another year of programs has gone by. If I had any illusion that we are slowing down here at The Tracking Project after 33 years, the tracks would reveal that this is simply not true. Once again, the turtle has led us to new friends and far away lands as we shared our Arts of Life ® programs of natural and cultural awareness with interested people and communities around the world — from our high desert home and the lush vegas of the San Pedro Mountains to the turquoise waters of Huahine and Raiatea in the blue waters we call the Pacific Ocean, from the dry, red earth in the cerrado of Brazil to the wondrous Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at
Teotihuacan near Mexico City.

Our programs are a celebration of the diversity within our human family, bringing people of all ages together through a better understanding of our shared human needs and the mission we were given to preserve and care for the Natural World that sustains us all.

Please read on to learn more about our book series Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the
Natural World, our new course Cultural Perspectives on Dreams and Dreaming, our presentation at the International Summit on the Spirit of the Earth near Mexico City, as well as
our Nurturing the Roots mentor outreach on the islands of Raiatea and Huahine in the South Pacific and with the tribes in the Xingu Indigenous Preserve of Brazil.

The Tracking Project Bringing the Pieces Together Again
Bringing the Pieces Together Again ®


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. In the past we could respond to a request from a community who had no funding and somehow, we would make it work. But now, the size of our “extended family” and the number of requests we receive each year is simply too great.

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 a menu of what we are able to accomplish with donations of varying sizes. Send us a tax-deductible contribution… and watch the Turtle work!

On the PRODUCTS page of our site you can see our array of teaching resources, t-shirts and hats. Purchasing our products is another great way to support our work.


Our special thanks to the following foundations and groups — the Aurora Foundation, the Frances V.R. Seebe Charitable Trust, the Attias Family Foundation, the Edward and Verna Gerbic Family Foundation, the Ward & Eis Gallery, the Russell Family Foundation, the F & S Fund of the Santa Fe Community Foundation — who supported us in the past year. And to the many individual contributors and friends who have pledged themselves to our work — THANK YOU.


The Thanksgiving Address series continues to move with a life of its own, spreading a message of respect and the “attitude of gratitude” for all living things. For the past year and a half we have been working on the next language edition in the series which “arrived on our doorstep.” And it is finally ready.

We are pleased to announce the publication of:

דברי תודה
ברכות לעולם הטבע
Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen
מילות הקדמה

the Hebrew/Mohawk edition of the popular Thanksgiving Address book, which arrived from the printer just before the New Year.

Thanksgiving Address Hebrew     Thanksgiving Address Array
(Left): Thanksgiving Address in Hebrew / (Right): Thanksgiving Address array in 11 languages. (photos by India Stokes)

This edition has an interesting origin story. In August 2017 we were contacted by Sandra Lee
Bigtree and her husband, Phil Arnold, Chair of Religion at Syracuse University. They asked if
we had a Hebrew translation of the Opening Words that they could use in a program when they
hosted Team Israel at the International Box Lacrosse Tournament, both at Onondaga, and at the
Syracuse University DOME. They wanted to make the Thanksgiving Address available to the
Israelis in their own language. As we did not have the Hebrew available, Sandra, Phil and
others helped to produce a Hebrew version of the words for the event — Dehontsigwa’ehs:
Creator’s Game Lacrosse Weekend @ Onondaga Nation—after which they sent us the
manuscript for our series.

Sunset on the Sea of Galilee, Israel
Sunset on the Sea of Galilee, Israel

When it came time to choose the paper colors for this edition, we wanted to use some colors from Nature in Israel. We looked online and found this image of a sunset on the Sea of Galilee — from these vibrant colors we chose the cover and the orchid flysheet.

Our translators for this edition were Erella Brown and Dana Lloyd, to whom we send our deepest thanks for their time and energy. And to our designer, Andrew Main in Santa Fe, who put in so many hours to make this edition possible — working in two languages we don’t speak fluently, with reverse formatting from a standard English book. Niawen.

Currently, the Thanksgiving Address booklet is available in English/Mohawk, German, Swedish, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Bisayan, French, Hawaiian, Italian and Hebrew. The presence of the Mohawk language in each edition is intended to remind readers of the source of
these Thanksgiving words. It is also a statement that the Mohawk language is alive, with several thousand speakers at this time. With the publication of the Hebrew edition, we now have 99,780 books in print.

As funds allow, we will continue to develop this series dedicated to bringing the minds of the people of the world together in appreciation of the Natural World and the gift of life itself. We extend our thanks to our many translators and to the Haudenosaunee, the people of the Iroquois Confederacy, for preserving these words “from the beginning of time” and offering them to us at this important moment.

May the “attitude of gratitude” bring us all together as one beautiful human family.

Now our minds are one.


For years, one of the most popular parts of our courses has been the daily dream circle. I have often conspired with Jade about offering a course on dreams and dreaming that would address the dream ecology I have encountered in my travels and work with traditional cultures and communities around the world.

In late 2017 we decided to give the dream circle its own space as a separate class with the name Cultural Perspectives on Dreams and Dreaming. Part 1 in November 2017 focused on Australia and Hawai’i; Part 2 in April 2018 looked at North and South America; Part 3 in November 2018 focused on Hawai’i and Tahiti; and Part 4, which took place at the end of April looked at our work in Colombia and Brazil.

Our long-time friend in Aspen, artist Judy Haas, created an image for us, which she has titled Dreams and Dreaming.

Dreams and Dreaming by Judy Haas
Dreams and Dreaming by Judy Haas

It is fascinating to look at dreams through the eyes of the Australian Aborigines, the Native Hawaiians, the people of the Iroquois Confederacy or the People of the Earth from La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. These people have developed their own dream cosmologies over thousands and tens of thousands of years and have woven their dreams into their cultural experiences.

In one of his last books — The World We Used to Live In — Standing Rock Sioux author Vine de Loria, Jr. looked at all the recorded exploits of Native American medicine people that he had collected in his life. He noted how the people of old studied Nature with their senses each day, but that at night they found that they were being instructed in a different way that was equally valid. It was also logical that after someone had a dream about an event which later took place, the people began to trust their dreams as a valid way of knowing.

The class takes place in a private yurt in Santa Fe and from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, we plunge deeply into the world of dreams through storytelling, dream circles, tracking exercises and journaling, How can we gain more access into the world of dreams which is so essential to our well-being and our survival and yet which remains so foreign to most of us?

Come, join us and learn more about “dream tracking” and how to use your dreams in fascinating ways.

Nurturing the Roots (NTR) — Mentor Outreach
Huahine, Raiatea and Tahiti Nui

In May 2018 we returned to the the islands of Raiatea, Huahine and Tahiti Nui in the South Pacific for a continuation of the work we have been doing in Tahiti over the past 15 years. Lisa B. Matkin joined me for some powerful work with the stone temples known as marae. Our report on this work for the Aurora Foundation who funded our visit has already been posted on the INTERNATIONAL page of our website. To read it, please visit:

Marae Taputapuatea complex
Marae Taputapuatea complex

Nurturing the Roots (NTR) — Mentor Outreach
UNIPAZ ( University of Peace) Brasília and IV Simpósio de Medicina UFMT – Sinop

In October Jade and John Stokes traveled to Brazil for a series of events in Brasília and Mato Grosso, meeting with members of our NTR network and taking part in some of the programs our mentors work with. The Tracking Project has 67 mentors in Brazil who were trained in the original Nurturing the Roots project in New Mexico (1996 – 1998), Nutrindo as Raízes I (2003 – 2005) or Nutrindo as Raízes II (2014 – 2016) which took place in Brazil.

Our first days were spent joining members of our mentor circle for meals and discussions. Greetings and Love to Luara & Marcelo, Vanessa Porto Brixi, Milena Sbardelotto & Ian Gallina, Mariana Azevedo Ribeiro, Hizumi Seó, Andréia Cassilha Andrigueto Venturoli & Silvio, Rodrigo Rosa, Edison Luís Guedes Neves & Julia and Cristiana Aspesi & Luis da Motta. Thanks for the rides, the meals, the hospitality and all the good work we have done together.


The Tracking Project has enjoyed a long, harmonious partnership with UNIPAZ (University of Peace). This year we were able to join our fifth Formação de Jovens (Youth Formation) together with members of our mentor circle — Isabela Crema, Artur Caribé Guarani – Kaiowa, Marcelo Nemmevê and Laura Moreira.

The work of UNIPAZ has always had a symbiotic relationship with the work of The Tracking Project, so much so that several members of their rising leadership have participated in our NTR Mentor Program. Isabela, Laura, Marcelo and Artur , all members of the main Formação staff, are living examples of how our two organizations meld our teachings and our staff and share ideas about education and peace.

Artur, Marcelo and John starting the fire, UNIPAZ
Artur, Marcelo and John starting the fire, UNIPAZ

We cannot convey in words how beautiful it is to sit with the youth of the Formação and to see how their bright eyes are so open to the teachings. Over the last nine years, Director John has been invited to guide five keystone encounters where each new group chooses a name and becomes a tribe for their next year of learning and working together.

This year, we had the opportunity not only to witness the naming of the Tribo da Vida, but also to attend the Colheita (harvest; final encounter) of the Tribo do Tempo. These two tribes are the first to happen concurrently, and are also united by fire and water. Last year, when the Tribo do Tempo took its name, Brasília was dry as a bone and there were fires burning right up to the gates of the institute. This year, it poured rain for the naming of the Tribo da Vida and all through the week until the Colheita of Tempo. Vida was also blessed by the presence of four enormous blue butterflies, (morpho menelaus), who captivated our attention as they played together.

We would like to send our gratitude and blessings to the members of Tribo do Tempo who have been set free to plant their own seeds, and to the members of Tribo da Vida who are just beginning their journey!

Tribo da Vida 2019
Tribo da Vida 2019

We would like to extend a special thank you to Isabela (also sometimes known as Belinha), who revived the Formação de Jovens after an interlude of many years. Her presence and interpretation skills have been priceless in our courses over the years, in the mentor program, in our work in the Xingu Indigenous Preserve, and of course in the youth work that she loves so much. Her quick hummingbird mind and intense passion for a better world are so powerful, and we wish her many years of planting and harvesting.

Tribo do Tempo, Colheita, UNIPAZ
Tribo do Tempo, Colheita, UNIPAZ

IV Simpósio de Medicina UFMT – Sinop, Federal University of Mato Grosso Symposium on
Indigenous Health and Infectology

The following week we traveled with Belinha to Sinop to join our mentor and host, Duarte Antonio Guerra. Our original plan had been to visit Aldeia Aribaru, one of the villages of the Yudja (Juruna) people who we had visited in 2016 and 2017. But because of scheduling
problems, we were unable to fly to the village. Instead, Duarte invited me to speak at the Federal University of Mato Grosso-Sinop’s IV Simposium on Medicine, the themes of which were Indigenous Health and Infectology.

Received by an audience of 250 medical students, I joined the roster with such esteemed speakers as well-known journalist Ulisses Capozzoli from São Paulo, Elias Bigio of the FUNAI, Dr. Douglas Rodrigues, and Duarte, doctor and Tracking Project mentor.

Round table at the Symposium in Sinop, Mato Grosso
Round table at the Symposium in Sinop, Mato Grosso

We had the great honor to meet a new and learned friend of high degree — Ulisses Capozzoli, journalist, author and editor of Scientific American Brazil. Ulisses and I were instant friends, discussing matters of Nature and Indigenous People all around the world.

In one of our conversations, he mentioned that one of his heroes was renowned anthropologist, naturalist, philosopher and educator Loren Eiseley. I told him that my mother, Elizabeth Lusty, had been a personal student of Eiseley at Oberlin College in 1945. Eiseley believed that the way of the future was to study anthropology (where humanity had been) and ecology (where humanity was going). In his keynote, Ulisses read the famous speech by Chief Seattle to the 250 medical students attending the Symposium. The following day, I picked up on his speech and told the students that if they could not understand Seattle’s speech, they would not be able to understand the nature of “indigenous.”

And I added that they should have respect for the traditional beliefs and medicine people of the tribes they visit. To so many traditional people in the world, their name for the hospital is “the place we go to die.” Native people will often express a similar sentiment when they say, “When I go to see the doctor, they sometimes know what’s wrong with me. When I go to see the medicine man (or woman), they always know what’s wrong with me.” In this way, I told the young people to stand with the traditional healers and learn from them rather than try to discredit them or replace them. The students were very excited and stimulated by this talk.

Together these speakers were able to impart to the young students the depth of what it means to work in native communities, that health is intimately connected to cultural respect, historical understanding, empowerment, and friendship. We wish them luck in their work, and we wish the beautiful native people of Brazil good health and happiness in each one of their communities.

Our work in Brazil continues to shine brightly, thanks to the Aurora Foundation, our mentor circle and the many individuals who assist us in this valuable project. Temos saudades for our many Brazilian hosts and friends for their dedication and hospitality.

International Summit on the Spirit of the Earth — Teotihuacan / Mexico City

To close this exciting year, Jade joined me for a visit to a brand new place for The Tracking Project — Mexico City. When the invitation for the International Summit on the Spirit of the Earth came to our office in the middle of the year, I was enchanted by the sight of the pyramids of Teotihuacan and to know that the symposium would take place just a short distance from this mystical city.

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan
Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan

Stories tell of how the Aztecs found the city already built and gave it the name Teotihuacan, which some translate as “The Place where Men go to become Gods” or “City of the Gods.” Our knowledgable friend PAZ (Patricio Zamora), who speaks fluent Nahuatl and represents the
Azteca dance tradition here in New Mexico translated Teotihuacan for me as “What Happened Among the Place of Energy.” He asked that I pronounce the word with the accent on the “hua” (wa) —Teo ti HUA can — which is correct in Nahuatl.

On the first day of the summit, I let our host, Pablo Aboumrad, know that I “had to go to the pyramids” and he made sure that later that day we got there. With others we climbed the powerful Pyramid of the Moon, where we did a small ceremony of Thanksgiving. It was the
day of the moon’s first crescent and our little circle was visited by a a beautiful butterfly who, in our minds, carried our blessings to the Four Winds.

Perhaps in the future we can visit the Pyramid of the Sun and wander down the long road known as the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl. Our new friends Brian and Mena from the conference have told us of vast caves and passageways beneath this pyramid. So
little is known about this site! PAZ has suggested to me that many ancient sites in Mexico were places where people from many distinct pre-Columbian nations would gather — astronomers, astrologers and other people of knowledge — to share energy and observations with each other.

The big question on the table at the conference was “What is a spiritual response to climate change? What takes us beyond recycling? What is the lesson for humanity? What are we supposed to be learning from all this? And what are we being asked to change or upgrade in our human spirit?”

This is not just a human question. We share this planet with other beings. As the People of the Earth (the four tribes of La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia) said after reading the Thanksgiving Address booklets we had given them in Spanish: “We approve of this book. All the things in this book are alive. All the things in this book have rights. And they all need to be defended.”

We are certain that remembering to be Thankful is a part of the lesson of our times. In my presentation, I also offered this thought: “If you took my shoe and pressed it into the earth, it would leave a print of my shoe. But if I am in my shoe walking over the earth, my track, which is alive, would have all kinds of other mounds and waves in it (called “pressure releases”).

These marks which are not on the bottom of my shoe are actually reflections of how the earth felt about my passing. So, maybe climate change is a track of how the earth feels about us right now and what we have done to the Mother in our misunderstanding of what she means to us.”

We are grateful to have attended this conference and to have met so many great people working on very interesting projects: Nil Zacharias of Eat For The Planet, Anna Pollock of Conscious Travel, author Adrián Villaseñor Galarza, author David Abram, Gerardo ViMol and his partner María, Alexander Winer and Jero Castrillon of Rutas y Raíces, and conference president, Pablo Aboumrad. We look forward to future collaborations.

John Stokes
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