A SHORT HISTORY OF NURTURING THE ROOTS
In the beginning was Nurturing the Roots, a community mentor program which we hosted near Cuba, New Mexico for one summer week each year from 1996 through 1998. Inspired by a vision from one of our Hawaiian elders, together with a desire to generate and empower an entire “class” of community artists and educators with a highly effective curriculum, The Tracking Project brought together artists and educators from around the world to strengthen each other by pooling our knowledge, experience and successful community education strategies.
Participants in these initial programs included members of many indigenous and non-indigenous groups and nations, including: Mohawk, Seneca, Miccosukee, Din, Puyallup, Aztec and other Native Americans; Anglos, Chicanos, Hawaiians, Filipinos, Swedes, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilians; and Aboriginal Australians from three southern language groups-the Kaurna, Narranga and Ngarrindjeri. Encouraged by the success of the program (46 participants completed the training), we reassembled the group for a reunion in the year 2000 to “bring our minds together once again” and to add new pieces to the curriculum.
In each training our daily presentations, discussions and hands-on workshops followed what we feel to be the essential components of our curriculum. These key areas and the concepts within them have been laid out on the plates of a turtle’s back. They include: Thanksgiving, Traditional Tracking & Survival Skills, Nature Awareness, Peacemaking, Cultural Awareness, The Arts of Life, Personal Development, Community Education, Ceremony, and Renewal.
Funding for Nurturing the Roots in each year of the program was provided by the Aurora Foundation, the Francis V.R. Seebe Charitable Trust, and Grant Abert & Nancy Ward. The Tides Foundation assisted in several years.
Participants were asked to commit one week a year for three years to the project. We felt that this would allow the lessons of tracking and nature awareness to be assimilated more fully by each prospective educator. By the third year of the program, it was obvious that Nurturing the Roots was a successful model of a cultural and environmental awareness program which could cross boundaries of age, race and geography. The completion of this program was in our minds the culmination of a decade of “staff development” and a fulfillment of our Hawaiian elder’s vision.
The Next Generation of Mentor Programs
As our participants returned to their home countries and communities, they found that the effectiveness of the teachings created a desire in others to share in this training. The idea of “second-generation” trainings (our students now gathering further groups of 50 more students) was born. In March 2000 a team of mentors traveled to Davao City, Mindanao to hold the first year of Panday Buhat, a mentor program for the Philippines, organized and hosted by Augusto Miclat and the staff of Initiatives for International Dialogue. In March 2002, the mentor team initiated the NTR process in Hawai’i through the Alaka’i Project organized by Miki Maeshiro and Kahele Kukea, sponsored by the Kamehameha Schools. Nutrindo as Ra¡zes, our Brasilian program, is the latest “fruit” to grow from the original mentor program.