December 26, 2007
Greetings to everyone from our high desert home in northern New Mexico, where once again thousands of sandhill cranes, snow geese and other migratory birds have arrived for their annual winter visit. It is that time of year when our travels have ended and we join our friends of many traditions to celebrate and give thanks through dances and ceremonies for the bounty of the year. Orion and the Pleiades are prominent overhead, marking the time of many ceremonies, helping assure that our human activities are in alignment with the energies of Nature.
The tracks of the turtle led us to many new lands and adventures as we shared our system of natural and cultural awareness with interested people around the world—from the pristine beauty of La‘au Point on Moloka‘i to the western flanks of the San Pedro mountains of New Mexico, from the tannin-brown waters of the central Amazon near Manaus, Brazil to the stone marae of Huahine, French Polynesia.
This is our Annual newsletter reporting on our activities in 2007, with special reports on: our Arts of Life Hawai‘i programs; Nurturing the Roots / Cottonwood—the final year of a community mentor program with our local Montessori school; our annual camps and tracking courses—Hawkeye Training, Dreamtracking and Tracking in the Southwest; our work in Brazil, Hawai‘i and Tahiti through Nurturing the Roots: Mentor Outreach 06/07; as well as the remarkable success of Círculo dos Saberes, an indigenous youth and elder gathering organized by one of our mentor graduates in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Inside you’ll also find our Annual Project Summary which offers a listing of all 2007 projects, our Products pages and a Schedule of upcoming events through Fall 2008.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature
Deficit Disorder Trish Nickerson, principal of the Cottonwood School, brought an article in Salon magazine to our attention several years ago in which journalist Richard Louv was interviewed by Sarah Karnasiewicz regarding his new book, Last Child in the Woods. Speaking about our culture’s rejection of Nature, Louv notes that “children of the digital age have become increasingly alienated from the natural world, with disastrous implications, not only for their physical fitness, but also for their long-term mental and spiritual health.”
He also draws on “a growing body of scientific research that suggests children who are given early and ongoing positive exposure to nature thrive in intellectual, spiritual and physical ways that their ‘shut-in’ peers do not. By reducing stress, sharpening concentration, and promoting creative problem solving, ‘nature-play’ is also emerging as a promising therapy for attentiondeficit disorder and other childhood maladies.”
As readers of this newsletter and those who have gone out with us know, The Tracking Project has spent the last 25 years devising a system which can effectively re-connect individuals and communities to the natural world and to the peace and wisdom that this connectedness can bring. Through a belief in the validity of the indigenous way of seeing the world and a belief in the power of art, we have worked with traditional elders from around the world to create a curriculum that focuses on the Arts of Life—traditional tracking and survival skills, music, storytelling, dance, and peacemaking. These programs have been able to successfully bridge cultural, bioregional and intergenerational boundaries.
Louv’s book, published by Algonquin Books, is well-worth reading, and his work, based on ten years of research in both urban and rural areas, has already spawned a national movement—“No Child Left Inside.” The term “nature deficit disorder” is now a common topic of conversation when we sit down with teachers to discuss our programs. We hope this movement continues to grow and helps adults see the need to connect all children to the Natural World.
In 2007 we continued to upgrade and update our website, linking to friends and fellow projects around the world. Visitors to the site have averaged around 4,800 per month since the first of the year and as of the time of this newletter, our total visitors count since we posted the site in 2001 stood at 266,868.
If you have not been to the site lately, we have updated many pages, including the Products, Calendar and The Turtle Story. You can find biographies of our staff on the Staff page, write-ups on the many Native elders who have shared their teachings with us on the Lineage page, as well as interviews, articles and many other exciting features.
Our trusty webweaver in the southern Philippines, Geejay Arriola, continues to maintain our website. We met Geejay Arriola through our Philippine mentor program Panday Buhat in March 2000, organized by mentor Gus Miclat, Director of Initiatives for International Dialogue. We were very impressed with her skills as a musician, poet, artist and community educator. At the conclusion of the program, she mentioned to me, “If you ever decide to have a website, don’t ask anyone but me to design it for you.” We did call on her, and to this day she continues to do an amazing job for us. As always, we extend our thanks and our aloha to Geejay, Gus and all our friends in Davao City, Mindanao.
Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World
The Thanksgiving Address series continues to move around the globe with a life of its own. We now have some 55,000 copies of the book in print and though we did not add any new language editions to the series in 2007, we have versions of the words in Italian and Latin, courtesy of Bill Busby and friend. Our friend Miki Maeshiro on O‘ahu tells us that we will have a draft in Hawaiian available when we visit in February 2008. Sometime later in the year, we hope to be able to print a version in the Hawaiian language.
Currently, the Thanksgiving Address book is available in English, German, Swedish, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Bisayan and French, each paired with the Mohawk original. 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 and well, with more than 3,300 speakers at this time in Canada and the United States.
The importance of the Thanksgiving Address in a written form was brought home to us in a different way last summer. In July, we received an order from a well-known Mohawk singer from the Six Nations reservation in Ontario for some copies of the Japanese edition as gifts for an upcoming trip to meet with the Ainu in northern Japan. “The book is such a perfect gift,” she said. “because everything you need to know about us is in the Thanksgiving Address. And it’s also the most we are asking of others. If giving thanks is all that you do, that’s enough.”
In August, our assistant Anna picked up her new United States passport. Later that day, she called the office excitedly to tell us that the passport had a new design and that in the visa pages, just after the pages with quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, there was a page with images of a bear and some nature images. The quote on the page read:
We checked in with John Kahionhes Fadden at the Six Nations Indian Museum and Chief Jake Swamp of the Tree of Peace Society who let us know that the use of the Thanksgiving words in the passport had been done with permission. So now, the words of Thanksgiving to all the Animals will be a part of millions of US passports!
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 our diversity, 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.
Since the mid 1980s, we have maintained a rigorous schedule of community visits, camps and trainings, inspiring and teaching thousands and thousands of people, young and old. It’s true, many times in the past we would respond to a request from a community who had no funding for the program and somehow, we would make it work. But now, the size of our “extended family” and the number of requests we receive is simply too great.
Please 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 programs. Send a taxdeductible contribution ... and watch the turtle work!
Wanting to donate shares of stock? Thanks to an old friend who contributed some shares this Fall, we opened an account with a brokerage firm. We will now keep this account open in order to receive future gifts. Products and Stuff
We continue to generate our small array of teaching/resource products, which now includes the Thanksgiving Address booklets, Thanksgiving Address notecards, our two posters—Animal Tracks of the Southwest and Animal Tracks of Brasil, and our popular workout DVD, Secrets of Natural Movement.
In addition we have our Tracking Project T-Shirts in many colors, as well as tank tops and long sleeve Ts. Our two camouflage shirts for girls/women, inspired by the Brazilian look, are now available in S, M and L. And newest of all, we have printed a run of Projeto Pegadas T-Shirts, designed by our partners in Brazil, with the Pegadas logo on the front—a jaguar track with a map of Brazil as the heel pad.
Look inside at our Products pages to see more of our t-shirts, hats, posters and books. For pictures of all our shirts, visit the Products page on our website.
Remember, purchasing our products is another great way to support our work.
We send our special thanks to everyone who has pledged themselves to our work, to our many contributors, to the foundations who believe in what we do and to all our supporters—We thank you for enabling us to continue our work. For a full list of foundations and groups who provided us with grants in the last year, please see our Annual Project Report.
To all our friends and guest artists who give so generously of themselves— Betty, Anna, Geri, Erin, Able, Keith, Cary, Vicenta, Karen, Nancy, Jade, Kainoa, India, Solar & Renata, Joel, Steven, Paul, Justin, the Zamoras, Noland, Heidi & One Tribe Aloha, Jamie, Gale, Jeffrey, David, Ruth, Dan & Diana, John Densmore, Satara & Tai, Peter, Jenny & Don, Sarah C., Geejay, Teo & Ana, Devon and J, Sensei Debbie, Lisa & Charles, Bob & Maddie, Kate, Jake, Tommy, Oren, Andy & Helene, Joe & Carol, Pete & Jeannette, Ibrahim, Jackie, Marina, Mililani, Toshiko, Yuklin, Miki & Brian, Dr. Chun, Anna Lee, Kehau, Faith, Jackie, Joyce, Brad & Mi’i, the ‘Ohe team, Ed at the Pagoda, Renee, Mike M., Elizabeth, Jean- Claude, Vetea, Jorie, Dorothy, Tihoti, Walt, Marion, Mac, Ben, Ed M., Trish & Walt, all the Cottonwood people, Janne, Nancy, Edison Lodi, Antonia & family, Edison Saraiva, Bea & family, Edison Luís, Julia & family, Andreia, all the Renatas, Mariana, Graziella, Isabel, Andreia, Caroline, Saul & family, Rodrigo, Henrique, Bill G and Erika, Frank M, Terri, Ken, Manuel, Frank G., Andrew… many thanks.
“Protection of all life is in your hands now.”
The first time I ever heard the Thanksgiving Address was in 1984 at the cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, where I took part in the “Missa Gaia” ceremony with the Paul Winter Consort. The speaker was Oren Lyons—Onondaga leader and statesman— and he offered the Opening Words from the podium he shared with a large statue of a wolf. “It’s good to see my people back in church,” he joked, pointing to the wolf.
At the end of the ceremony, I offered Oren a ride to where he was staying and we had a chance to talk. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with him several times—at Ganondagan Youth and Elder gatherings, the Rainbow Warrior Festival in Santa Fe, in Stockholm and in the Saami community at Saltaluokta in Sweden—and his words and wisdom have helped to guide me since our first meeting.
The January/February 2007 issue of Orion magazine carried an interview with Oren, conducted by author Barry Lopez. Entitled “The Leadership Imperative,” the interview covers aspects of leadership that are largely unknown to those with no knowledge of the expansive consciousness of the people known as the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy.
Late in the interview, Lopez asks: “It seems to me that the federal government in the United States is reluctant to invite Indian people to the table because, as you’ve just said, you can’t have effective leadership without spiritual law, and you can’t talk about good governance without environmental awareness....”
With these thoughts in mind, we will continue to evolve as an organization—working for the youth, the preservation of wildlife, maintaining the integrity & vitality of Native cultures and the growth of understanding among all people.
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