Encyclopedia Article


A tracker is an individual who is skilled in following prints and traces left on the ground by animals or a humans. In many Native American and other indigenous cultures, tracking is learned by hunters, gatherers, or warriors starting at a very early age. Trackers learn to identify animal paw and hoof prints, scat, fur, and feathers, as well as traces of movement on the path. Similarly, they may also be skilled in reading human traces such as footprints, tracks left by tools or vehicles, and signs of stopping, turning, and shifting weight. In Hillerman's novels, Jim Chee, a Navajo policeman, appears to possess exceptional tracking expertise that enables him to interpret clues left at crime scenes, follow suspects, and solve mysteries.

Native American trackers have been recruited by European settlers in the Americas since first contact. More recently, they have been employed by military and law enforcement agencies in operations that require their unique skills.

Photo Credit: 

"Animal tracks in the mud, Pulham, Dorset, February 10, 2008" by Nigel Mykura is licensed under CC BY-SA.

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