Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we visit the desert of the American Southwest to learn about a group of people called the Shadow Wolves.
Wolf is hunting. He is not looking for
animals. He is hunting people. The Shadow Wolf walks slowly across the hot
desert sand. His eyes move slowly over
the ground. Most people would only see
sand, dirt, rocks and some small plants.
The Shadow Wolf sees a story. He looks closely at the ground. He can tell that five men passed this
way. Four of them carried heavy
loads. He can also tell they are moving
quickly. They are not yet running, but
they are moving as fast as their heavy loads permit. One man is not carrying a heavy load. The Shadow Wolf knows this person is the group's leader.
Shadow Wolf increases his own speed across the dry, hot desert. Soon, he can tell that the five men are
running. They know he is following
later, in the far distance, a group of birds suddenly flies away from the
ground. The five men have frightened
the birds. The Shadow Wolf slowly pulls
out his radio and calls for help.
men are captured within an hour. They
are arrested for trying to bring illegal drugs into the United States. Once again, the Shadow Wolf hunters have
thousands of years, people were hunter-gatherers. They survived by hunting wild animals and gathering food that was
not easily found. Their hunting skills
were extremely important. The ancient
hunter-gatherers of the world learned to follow the signs or marks left on the
ground as animals moved along a path. This skill is called tracking. A good tracker would often spend days
following the signs of a group of animals until he could make a successful kill
These skills have disappeared in most of the modern
world. Yet, the Shadow Wolves use them
to find and arrest people who try to sell illegal drugs. The Shadow Wolves are
all Native Americans. They are special employees of the United States
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the Department of
There are fifteen Shadow Wolves. They belong to the
Tohono O'odham Tribe and seven other Native American tribes.
The Shadow Wolves live
by a saying that tells a lot about them and their work. The saying is: "In brightest day, in darkest
night, no evil shall escape my sight, for I am the Shadow Wolf."
Shadow Wolves have been doing their special work since nineteen seventy-two
when they worked for what was then called the Customs Service. They work on the Tohono O'odham
Reservation. It is the second largest
area of American Indian land in the United States. It is a few kilometers west of the city of Tucson, in the
southwestern state of Arizona.
reservation shares a one hundred twenty kilometer border with Mexico. People who want to sell illegal drugs in the
United States carry the drugs on their backs across the desert land of the
Tohono O'odham Reservation. They try to
move from the border to the nearest road, about forty kilometers away. Usually about three or four people carry the
drugs through the reservation at night.
Their shoes leave marks in the dirt.
Shadow Wolves follow these shoe marks to find the drug dealers and arrest
them. The Shadow Wolves have been very
successful in their work.
Congress of the United States approved the idea of the Shadow Wolves for
several reasons. Police agencies in
Arizona and the United States Customs Service had all the modern technology
needed to help catch people who tried to sell illegal drugs. But they lacked the skills of the ancient
hunter-gatherers who could follow the signs left by people as they passed
through the desert.
Service officials knew drug dealers were coming across the border and into the
Tohono O'odham Reservation. The
government asked Indians who lived on the reservation to help in the fight
against the drug dealers. The first
members of the Shadow Wolves were members of the Tohono O'odham tribe.
years ago, the first members of this unusual group began to retire. The group asked if skilled trackers from
other tribes wanted to become Shadow Wolves.
The answer was yes.
The Shadow Wolves do not use only their ancient tracking
skills. They also use modern devices
that help them see in the dark. They
use modern radios to communicate. They
use airplanes, helicopters and other methods of transportation in their work.
And they carry weapons as well as water, survival devices and flashlights. The Shadow Wolves have a very good record.
In recent years they have seized an average of about twenty-seven thousand
kilograms of illegal drugs each year.
Shadow Wolves' main task is finding and stopping illegal drug dealers. However,
sometimes they are asked to help rescue people who become lost in the desert.
For example, in two thousand one, three Shadow Wolves saved the life of a
little boy who had become lost in the desert.
child and his dog left their home and walked into the desert. No one could find them. Special search aircraft were used. Experts with dogs were called on to help.
The aircraft and the dog experts searched but could not find the little boy.
Shadow Wolves then joined the search.
They found very little evidence of the boy in the desert. But they found just enough for them to begin
tracking the child. They continued to
follow the marks left by the little boy until they found him and his dog. They returned them safely to their home.
Shadow Wolves also share their skills with law enforcement agencies in other
countries. They have traveled to
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. They have helped train police, border guards
and customs officials. They have taught
them skills to help them find people who may be transporting chemical,
biological or nuclear weapons.
police and border guards in those countries were often surprised when the
Shadow Wolves began teaching them ancient methods of tracking.
Shadow Wolves say the police and guards expected to learn how to use some kind
of modern electronic equipment. Instead
they were taught ancient hunting skills.
Bryan Nez is from the Navajo tribe. He has worked with the Shadow Wolves group
for more than fifteen years. He learned
to track as a child. Mister Nez says he learned more by finding lost children
and people who became lost in the desert while on vacation.
Other officers say it is
interesting to watch him work. Most
people would not see anything unusual in an area. Yet, Mister Nez sees a lot of evidence of people passing
through. He says anyone can be followed
because they leave signs on the ground.
He says he can follow them even at night, or over rocks. Sometimes, he
says, the evidence he needs is something that he sees. Other times the evidence is something that
he does not see. Sometimes it is just a
feeling that he has.
of the Shadow Wolves is dangerous.
Sometimes the illegal drug dealers carry weapons. Shots have been fired more than once. One of the Shadow Wolves, Glen Miles, was
shot and killed by an illegal drug dealer in nineteen eighty-six.
other Shadow Wolves tracked the killer all the way to the Mexican border. The signs he left on the ground crossed the
Mexican border nine kilometers from where the shooting took place.
month, the Shadow Wolves find hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and arrest
those carrying the drugs. The group
knows it will never catch all the criminals who try to move illegal drugs
through their area. However, the Shadow
Wolves will continue to prove that ancient skills can be used to solve modern
program was written by Paul Thompson.
It was produced by Mario Ritter. For transcripts and MP3s of our
programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com.
I'm Barbara Klein.
Steve Ember. Join us again next week
for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.