When the Tracker and the Tracked Become One

By | August 26, 2013

We modern trackers envision ourselves as enacting a drama between the hunter
and the hunted.  We are clearly the tracker–we have studied the science of
tracking, we have honed our skills and sharpened our senses, and we focus
all of our attention on the track that lays before us.

A Native person sees himself more as a part of the track rather than as an
observer of the track. To him, tracker and tracked are intrinsic parts of
the Hoop of Relations. He thus knows the track because it is his–he walks
inside the animal who laid the track.  By being a part of, rather than
separate from, he knows the humility and selflessness which help sensitize
him to keen eyes of  Raven, the telling voices of Squirrel and Jay, and the
emotional temper of Deer.  They are far sharper than him, and thus better at
finding and describing the track being laid.

The Native tracker routinely becomes the tracked. The trail of the hunted
mirrors the hunter, to the point that the hunter  feels directly related to
the hunted. When this happens to me, it sends a chill up my spine–a feeling
that I am being followed, being shadowed, by the maker of the track I am
following.

In effect, the modern tracker studies the past, while a Native tracker is
immersed in the present. How did this come to be?  I think it is because of
our culture’s emphasis on the individual. Because of it, I naturally think
that I am the tracker, I have the skill, and the task of the hunt is mine.
What results is a black-and-white perspective that isolates: it’s him and
me–I am the pursuer and he is my quarry.

A Native is both tracker and tracked, and he is neither. He dwells both
within and beyond himself–he and his relations are as one being,
collectively perceiving and responding for the good of all.  Both are part
of a great interactive web based on a mutual trust and awareness, which
gives each many eyes and ears as they see and hear for each other.  Together
they are both observers and creators of the track, as though they are organs
within the same organism.

In other words, we follow a trail, while a Native is the trail.  We track to
get something we want, and a Native opens to receive something that is
already his.


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