Each year in addition to our travels and our work with communities around the world, The Tracking Project hosts a number of camps and awareness trainings in the mountains of northern New Mexico. We rarely highlight these gatherings in our newsletter, yet they form the core of our teachings, with thousands of people having passed through the trainings over the past 22 years. Here is a brief look at these camps.
Hawkeye Training: a week-long skills camp for boys ages 12–18
In 1987, at the request of many parents who were seeking an initiatory experience for teenage boys, we created Hawkeye Training, a wilderness camp for young men. Grounded in the truthfulness of hard-ground tracking and the reality of survival skills, Hawkeye Training offered the boys a deep skills-based experience to help them move from childhood into young manhood. Many of our early campers were from Native communities and our teachings followed traditional training patterns where young men would spend sometimes several years with a group of “uncles” who would school them in the lessons of survival, tracking and nature awareness:
“Study the animals unobserved, learn their secrets. Wolf knows how to endure under the severest conditions. Deer can teach how to withstand thirst for a long time. The hawks give lessons in how to strike with accuracy. The elk teaches gallantry, the frogs watchfulness, the owl night wisdom and gentle ways, the bears strength, the foxes cunning and the coyotes how to elude capture.” (from Mystic Warriors of the Plains by Thomas Mails)
Long, full days at Hawkeye include: early morning runs, greetings to the day, martial arts training, dream circles, shelterbuilding, firemaking, tracking, natural movement, camouflage, toolmaking, traditional hunting techniques and other traditional skills, together with music, comedy and traditional games. Up to 30 campers a year take part and these young men are given first preference for returning the next year, allowing the boys to stay for as many years as they choose. (Some have stayed with us for 15 years!)
There came a time when we would have up to 60 boys on a waiting list for 5 free places in the next year’s Hawkeye camp! We responded to this situation by creating Hawkeye Scout.
Hawkeye Scout: an advanced invitational skills camp for young men
Scout camp is invitational and is limited to 15 young men each year. Scout takes the skills of Hawkeye to the next level of knowledge, with lessons of moving freely on the land and living lightly for days at a time. The Scouts are based in the general Hawkeye camp, where they can act as positive role models for the younger boys, but they move on a different schedule through the week. On several occasions, the Scouts have the opportunity to “go bush” with select members of the staff, allowing them to test their skills and develop their awareness.
Dreamtracking: a skills-based camp for girls ages 10–16
In 1996 we held our first Dreamtracking camp for girls. The philosophy for the camp is best exemplified by this quote from “Women are the Center of all Things Within Iroquois Society,” an article by Mohawk writer Doug George / Kanentiio:
“In the Iroquois world, a female baby is a blessing from the Creator because she means the cycle of our generations will continue on. From earliest childhood a girl baby is encouraged to take a leading role in her family and group…. In the past, young women were expected to be physically strong. They had to learn all the skills of survival…. Before she reached puberty, an Iroquois woman would have been able to survive in any environment.”
Now in its thirteeth year, Dreamtracking offers training in nature awareness, tracking and the Arts of Life. Firemaking, archery, camouflage and silent movement are blended with self-defense techniques, art, “lotions and potions,” as well as dance—from hula to traditional Azteca dancing. This camp is a counterpart to our camps for boys.
As with Hawkeye, up to 30 campers a year may take part and these young women are given first preference for returning the following year. Dreamtracking has already attracted young women from as far away as Austria, Hawai‘i and Brazil.
And now for the adults….
Tracking in the Southwest: an intensive tracking course in northwestern New Mexico
“Wild and simple, tough but gentle, the Southwest desert calls. A model for our lives, it reveals its mysteries only if we slow down long enough to really listen and observe. “
Originally created in 1989 as a trip offered through the Omega Institute catalogue, Tracking in the Southwest is an opportunity for 20–25 adults to join a hiking, camping and tracking journey to the heart and soul of the high desert regions of northern New Mexico. It is a unique opportunity to learn about animal tracking, nature awareness skills, Native cultures and the Arts of Life while camping out in the land of the Anasazi, crossroads of ancient North American migrations.
During the week, we embrace a simple way of being, focusing on tracking skills and aspects of the survival scenario as they apply to the tracker—hard ground tracking techniques, edible/medicinal plants, stalking, camouflage, advanced awareness exercises and primitive technologies. Evenings will be used for music, storytelling and humor around the fire. Camping is encouraged, but not required, and there are rooms available at the hostel for those who choose.
Included in the course is a day trip to Chaco Canyon, center of a great complex of Anasazi ruins. We will visit Pueblo Bonito, the great kiva Casa Rinconada, and other ruins in the Chacoan system.
Instruction for all of our camps is provided skilled members of The Tracking Project’s Camps take place in a high desert setting at the A Ranch, 350 wild acres near Cuba, New Mexico, the western flank of the San Pedro mountains. years, we have had the opportunity to track a multitude of animals, including mule deer, elk, mountain lion, bear, turkey, fox and beaver.