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Born to Experience Tracking

Updated: Mar 18

Perhaps our nervous system is nourished best through the practices and routines of holistic tracking--engaging all our senses and integrating them through stories of the land.

Reverse Engineering the Journey of the Master Tracker


Starting with a retrospective on my childhood, I reviewed the mentoring I experienced with both my grandmother and great aunt (1960 - 1971). This time period put a foundation under my naturalist skills. Next I looked at the later and more intensive mentoring with Tom Brown, Jr. (1971 - 1979). I reversed engineered my own nature connection and tracking learning journey. I brought this perspective to my research in university between 1979 and 1983.


During my time of intensive research and design, I would visit with my mentor Tom and we would talk about the design of a master naturalist pathway (this later became the Kamana Naturalist Training Program), and the tracking skills woven upon this foundation. In 1983, I met an elder naturalist and master tracker from Africa, Ingwe (Oct 17, 1914 - Nov 13, 2005). Ingwe was mentored in his boyhood by both the San Bushman trackers of the Kalahari, and the Akamba village elders, as well as the hunters and trackers. We then compared notes, we found many similarities that also were revealed through my research. Together, Ingwe and I founded Wilderness Awareness School and created the Shikari Tracker Training Program and began mentoring youth and adults in both Kamana and Shikari starting in 1983 in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and continuing until I moved the Wilderness Awareness School to Washington State in 1995--where it still continues today.


In later years, the 8 Shields model grew out from this work. We looked at the whole system required for full support of the deepest nature connection possible. This gave rise to a collection of categories of practices and processes that met people in their interests, passions and stage of life. We created the 8 Shields 512 map to categorize these elements in a progressive manner, and organized the map according to area of interest. There has been an iterative process where the learning pathway practices, exercises, study areas and mentoring models to support the journey of deep nature connection represented by Kamana and Shikari evolved to become a powerful collection of elements that can be scaled through a digital platform supporting media, and networking with local practitioners globally.


In the book, Animal Tracking Basics, Tiffany and I combined our experiences and based the stories and principles from both Kamana and Shikari. Through Tiffany's stories, readers get a sense of the pathway to become a holistic tracker, and to further develop their own nature connection.


"We know tracking. This is what we are born to do. We talk silently with our hands, and read the animals' stories."
words of !Nqate Xqamxebe, San Bushman Hunter from
The Great Dance, A Hunter's Story (2000)

In the film, The Great Dance, A Hunter's Story (Foster Bros. Films, 2000), the skilled and articulate tracker and hunter, !Nqate Xqamxebe and his friends offer many insights into the ancient relationship between human perceptions and ways, and holistic tracking. This set of practices is incredibly restorative and optimizing of human nervous system function.


It is my dream, my vision and my commitment to continue to work with these masters of tracking and to bring forward to the world an offering that can reach us all where we are at right now in modern times. This will be done through the collaboration of the most ancient, and the most modern technologies and the skilled specialists who hold these skills on the entire spectrum. In my life, I have never encountered a community of all ages, genders and interests who hold this energy with more love and coherence that my San friends. They are excited and proud to be collaborators on the 8 Shields Origins Project to help this continue.

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Jon Young, Connection 1st Network