WHITERIVER, Ariz. – Eastern Arizona’s White Mountain Apache Tribe will offer week-long eco-tours starting in June, featuring opportunities for people to view wildlife while learning about tribal history and culture.
Howling with the wolves and learning traditional campfire cooking will be included. Tribal biologist Krista Beazley says the tours emphasize an Arizona wilderness experience.
“Wildlife viewing: early mornings, late in the evenings. Do some wolf howlings. We also wanted to incorporate the cultural aspects of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. We have elders come up, tell traditional stories, traditional songs. We also have horseback riding.”
Other cultural experiences include a sweat lodge, traditional crafts and survival skills. Beazley says the tour emphasizes the sacred connections that Apaches see among the human soul, the land and all living things – with special reverence for the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
Beazley, who was raised on tribal lands by her grandmother, says elders told her about the cultural connection between wolves and the tribe, and how warriors used to sing wolf songs before battle.
“They highly respected these wolves, in the way they travel and the way they hunted. In the past they used to try to imitate the wolf. And there was even a wolf song. They would sing the wolf songs so they can be like the wolf.”
She says proceeds from the wilderness journeys benefit the tribe’s wolf-management program, which helps to ease conflicts between the wolves and tribal cattle ranchers, paying for things such as fencing, habitat protection and occasional livestock losses.
Craig Miller, Defenders of Wildlife southwest director, says tribal lands can be a gateway to Mexican wolf recovery in the ongoing federal reintroduction program.
“The tribal lands are situated right between the current Blue Range wolf-recovery area – where wolves live in Arizona and New Mexico – and the future of wolf recovery, which is through the Grand Canyon eco-region.”
Details on Apache Wilderness Journeys can be found online at naturalistjourneys.com.
Doug Ramsey, Public News Service – AZ