Arts of Life

Founded as a non-profit organization in 1986 by John Stokes, The Tracking Project (TTP) in Corrales, New Mexico, has worked with community educators and Native elders from around the world to design a series of teachings which connect individuals directly to the natural world. Our programs of natural and cultural awareness 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.

Nurturing the Roots

Over the past seventeen years a diverse team of artists/educators and traditional Native elders from TTP have shared this unique awareness program with more than 100,000 people of all ages. Through Nurturing the Roots, a community mentor program, our work with the international community now includes partners/programs in Hawai’i, Brazil, the Philippines, Sweden, Japan and Australia.

Children, the preservation of wildlife, biodiversity and the integrity/vitality of Native cultures in the global indigenous network have been the focus of our work. Our programs actively support cultural survival and community revival.

Goals and Objectives

As educators, we seek to:

– Enhance the awareness, self-reliance and self-confidence of our students.
– Provide training for youth in a wide range of life skills, including wilderness survival, tracking, and nature awareness, through school visits, camps and special programs.
– Offer an understanding of the importance of cultural survival/revival through music, storytelling, dance, painting and other arts.
– Encourage cultural respect and understanding by focusing on our shared human needs.
– Provide trainings and mentor programs for educators.
– Promote community education programs which bring together people of all ages, especially elders and youth.
– Encourage people to appreciate, understand and share in their responsibilities to the natural world.
– Work toward a future peaceful and sustainable society.

Meet the Team

John Stokes

John Stokes

Founder & Executive Director

John Stokes is a well-known musician, performer, writer and teacher of tracking. Since 1980 he has worked and traveled extensively in his efforts to bring awareness of the natural world and the integrity of indigenous peoples to interested people around the world.  Click for John’s full bio.

Karen Coombs

Karen Coombs

Herbalist & Crafts Artist

Karen grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana where her Depression-era parents gardened, composted and recycled, hunted, fished, and gathered food. As a bored 11 year old, Karen learned to make baskets, beading, leatherwork, tanning, crochet, knitting, spinning, weaving, felting, origami, paper making, and lots of other skills in the age before computer games. Learn more.

Jade Stokes

Jade Stokes

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Born and raised in the Albuquerque area, Jade grew up traveling with The Tracking Project. A homeschooling education allowed her to experience many cultures and cultivate her own personal Arts of Life skills in addition to teaching natural and cultural awareness through tracking and survival skills. Jade began assisting at courses in 2005, and became a full staff member in 2007. Learn more.

Able West

Able West

Acupuncturist

Able was born and raised in northern New Mexico. While growing up, he spent much of his time in the mountains, from which he developed a deep respect for the natural world.  He was exposed to Eastern and Native American internal practices and began studying the healing arts from his stepfather in 1985. In 1992, he traveled to China as a foreign exchange student and began to study acupuncture. In 1996 he received a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine and henceforth has had a private acupuncture and bodywork practice.  Learn more.

Lisa Bennett Matkin

Lisa Bennett Matkin

Yoga Therapist & Instructor

Lisa has been teaching yoga and meditation for close to 25 years. She is known to many through her appearance on the Yoga Zone TV shows and their line of videos. She was the co-director of the Mind Body Therapy Department at Haelth where she co-developed a 1,000- hour therapeutic yoga teacher training certification program. Learn more.

Joel Glanzberg

Joel Glanzberg

Permaculture Expert

Joel as broad experience in environmental design and ecological restoration projects, particularly in the arid regions of the southwest US and Latin America.  He has also worked extensively in the field of regenerative agriculture. An active author and educator in the fields of permaculture and ecological restoration, he is skilled in cross-cultural communication and teaching. Learn more.

Cary Odes

Cary Odes

Stand-up Comedian

Cary Odes is the Tracking Project‘s on-call Professional Comedian and in-house Mortician. Cary has been performing as a stand up at clubs and colleges across the country since 1980. In 1989 he met John Stokes while they were both working at a men’s conference. That fall, John had him entertaining in a cave during a thunderstorm and teaching wilderness skills he had learned only an hour before. Learn more.

Keith Strever

Keith Strever

Keith Strever was born on a small farm in Illinois in 1946. He studied history at Illinois Wesleyen College from 1965 to 1967. He served in the U.S. Navy as a radar technician from 1967 to 1971, with two 6-month tours in Viet Nam. In 1972 he moved to New Mexico where he lives to this day. He has worked as a tree planter off-and-on since 1980. He is a member of the Southwestern Forestry Workers Co-Operative, a private co-op that contracts to the U.S. Forest Service. Keith has personally planted hundreds of thousands of trees.  Learn more.

Geri Ayrault

Geri Ayrault

Family Therapist & Counselor

Geri has trained and taught with The Tracking Project for the last 20 years since connecting with John Stokes and his staff at Omega in Rhinebeck, New York in 1990. She has been a core staff member of the Dreamtracking wilderness camp for girls since it began in 1996 and has staffed Tracking Project school and mentor programs around the US and in Hawaii. Learn more.

Solar Law

Solar Law

Solar was born in the village of Truchas at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico. His parents, seeking a deeper connection to the land, developed a close to self sufficient farm where he fondly remember cultivating the garden in spring time and carrying wood to heat their adobe home in the cold winters. Learn more.

Greg Vaccaro, Martial Artist

Greg Vaccaro

Martial Artist

Master Gregory Vaccaro has been involved with the study of martial arts since 1969, and established his own schools in 1980. Over the years he has influenced thousands of students, with diverse training in the traditional martial arts. A Master of TaeKwon-Do, he also holds black belt degrees in HapKi-Do, and Arnis, and is well versed in various other arts along with Taiji & Qigong.  Learn more.

Geej Williams

Geej Williams

Web Designer

A webdesigner, singer-songwriter, and theater artist originally from the Philippines, Geejay is The Tracking Project’s web designer of 19 years.  She met the The Tracking Project staff during the mentor training organized by the Initiatives for International Dialogue in Davao City, Philippines. Now based in Jacksonville, FL, she is now a businesswoman and a member of the music duo Moonstalker. Learn more.

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