Official Statement of Core Beliefs
(The Official Statement was written in 1990 by founders Larry Olsen and Ezekiel Sanchez to explain the differences between ANASAZI Foundation and the handful of other wilderness therapy programs which existed at the time.)
In 1968, the two of us pioneered the wilderness philosophy at Brigham Young University. It soon became obvious to many that a sojourn in the wilderness could impact lives for good. We received many well-intentioned offers from experts in psychology, sociology, psychiatry, juvenile justice, family counseling, education, youth leaders, and other professionals, to analyze and offer suggestions on how to enhance what we were doing. In an attempt to understand and improve the process, we sifted through, by trial and error, many ideas. We learned that whenever we adopted what we have come to call “contrived” experiences, the overall impact often diminished for the participants. Ultimately, when we founded ANASAZI Foundation, we opted in favor of the original, down-to-earth walking daily—in and with the simple realities of nature. This program became known as The Making of a Walking.
In recent years, some programs have adopted a boot camp philosophy. We have kept a distance from these approaches and quietly lived in the ANASAZI Way with our YoungWalkers by simply maintaining an ancient primitive lifestyle. As we work daily with wonderful young people, we find no need for forced or contrived techniques to assist them in the heart-warming awakening that takes place. We invite the Making of a Trusting with even the most resistant young people. We do this daily. It is not easy and requires patience and a heart at peace.
As we made our walkings in canyons and cactus places, we talked and felt keenly the responsibility we had when tender, worried parents entrusted their sons and daughters to us. We committed fully to using correct principles in the walkings.
In the walkings we have come to know which philosophies to reject and which one to embrace. We make no apologies for our findings nor our one choice — to follow principles given by the Creator. In the making of our doings we reflect a high and positive standard of human relationships and living in harmony with nature because:
- We believe in the Making of a Trusting with each YoungWalker. This is done by respecting and protecting each person’s agency and dignity. We feel that each child is a person of worth and is inherently good. From the first moments on the trail this is exemplified without intimidations. Those who are untrustworthy at first soon soften to trust and love, then quietly cease their backward walking.
- We believe the wilderness is not a harsh place to be conquered, but a place in which each YoungWalker may walk in harmony with others and his/her surroundings. Though trail life is hard and nature demands the very best from a person, it is not adversarial, nor is it cruel. The leaders and the YoungWalkers walk side by side through the challenges and difficulties of life in the wilderness. It is a quiet walking which grants time to think and ponder, without the need for contrived experiences and high adventures. Introspection and spiritual promptings are natural and forthcoming when hearts are open and willing. Thus, YoungWalkers may, themselves, find a true awakening to things as they really are and make inspired, firm commitments to so live.
- We believe all the YoungWalkers respond to patient love and that the principles taught by the Creator provide ample opportunities for the growth of love and respect between all peoples. We, therefore, strive to exemplify those principles daily on the trail by patiently waiting upon each YoungWalker to respond to their own awakenings and the good teachings of the ANASAZI Way. We strive to not judge, nor manipulate, nor reject people in any way.
- We believe that, as part of our sacred trust, we must protect each YoungWalker from harm to himself and to others. We step in when needed and exercise responsible precautionary measures, thereby showing forth appropriate increases in love and concern until the YoungWalker esteems the action as essential to his or others’ safety. There is no room for blame or condemnation of a YoungWalker. Punishment is not meted out. Rather the YoungWalker comes to realize that such a backward walking simply reverses his own progress in the walking and in life. This essential process is carefully guided by sincere effort and moved upon by compassion in each case.
- We believe that competency and preparation are absolute essentials. Since childhood we have both been tutored in the wilderness and have tuned ourselves to being comfortable and secure in that environment. We provide constant in-service training for our field TrailWalkers. Risk is present, but since 1968, our programs have never experienced a serious accident, death, or disaster with any of the thou-sands of YoungWalkers entrusted to us.
- We believe it is vital that parents participate in this experience. We therefore provide a Parent Program that includes a Seminar on Relationships, which focuses on the same principles as the Trail Program. Through a natural process, parents come to realize how families have conflict and how to resolve the conflict that can beset even the best of us. This awakening invites the parents to come to an understanding of their child’s wilderness walking, as well as providing for a comparable walking of their own as they join their YoungWalker on the trail during the last few days.
- We believe in follow-up. We understand the challenge is for both the YoungWalker and the parents to solidify the change of heart and commitments that have been made. Thus, we provide opportunities and invite families to stay involved with ANASAZI for at least one year following their wilderness experience.
- We believe in honoring parents, their family faith, tradition and culture and in helping YoungWalkers do the same.
- We believe in continuous improvement and in meeting all the requirements of laws and regulations of government agencies and standards of accreditation organizations. We utilize a program improvement plan to ensure the safety, quality, care and competence of the YoungWalkers, Shadows and TrailWalker staff.