John Stokes, founder & Director of The Tracking Project, Inc. in Corrales, New Mexico, 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.
Born in Lakewood, Ohio (1952), he spent much of his early life on the Gulf coast of Florida. He graduated from Princeton University (B.A. 1974). After college, John worked as an assistant to the Senior Editor at the Beacon Press from 1975 – 1977, generating new titles in the area of social awareness.
From l978 – l984, he taught language and music skills at Tauondi, Inc. (formerly known as the Aboriginal Community College) in Adelaide, South Australia. Work with this community – initiated college dedicated to Aboriginal self-management brought him in contact with tribal, rural and urban Aboriginals from communities around Australia. His involvement with Aboriginal land rights causes introduced him to the global indigenous network.
Through friendships with traditional elders— notably the distinguished tracker Jimmy James of the Pitjantjatjara— John became aware of the need to preserve the wealth of indigenous knowledge regarding the natural world. He clearly saw the role traditional tracking and bush survival skills could play in training and enhancing the cultural and natural awareness and self-esteem of a community, especially the youth.
For further study in Native American style tracking, John worked and studied at Tom Brown’s Tracking/Wilderness Survival School , New Jersey in 1984 & ‘85. During this time he initiated tracking/survival outreach programs to Native American communities, held Native youth workshops and lectured in universities. His work with the Mohawk nation newspaper Akwesasne Notes led to a series of workshops with Ray Tehanetorens Fadden and John Kahionhes Fadden at the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota, New York. Classes with Native youth soon followed throughout the Northeast and in the Four Corners area of the Southwest.
To meet growing requests from Native communities, John established The Tracking Project (TTP) in 1986 as a not – for – profit organization. TTP is dedicated to working with community educators and Native elders from around the world to design a series of teachings which connect individuals directly to the natural world.
These programs of natural and cultural awareness inc lude 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.