Over the past 25 years, the ANASAZI Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Mesa, has helped teenagers to “find their way in the world” through a wilderness experience program and what they call a new way of “walking.”
ANASAZI cofounder and Mesa resident Ezekiel Sanchez says many young people — and adults as well — are “backward walking.” That is: taking the wrong paths, trying to go it alone or choosing to give in to addictions or to dead-end sources to find peace and fulfillment.
Now, after a quarter of a century, and in the year of Sanchez’s 70th birthday, ANASAZI is taking a step forward as well, with a new scholarship program and the national publication of a book that will make the ANASAZI principles available to hundreds more.
Published by Berrett-Koehler, “The Seven Paths: Changing One’s Way of Walking in the World” is an adaptation of the book used to help struggling youth, adults and their families. The Seven Paths will be available for purchase nationwide on Aug. 6 and will be launched with a local celebration at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe that night.
Sanchez said the publication of this book is “like a dream come true” — literally.
As Sanchez explains it, the entire ANASAZI program was founded on a literal dream he had many years ago.
A Totonac Indian from Mexico, and the second oldest of sixteen children, Sanchez is known to many as Good Buffalo Eagle, or simply as “Zeke.” His family traveled the Western States as migrant workers, so, at an early age, Sanchez learned to work hard. He also learned which wild plants and other edibles from the desert could be used to supplement his family’s food supply as well as other important lessons from the desert.
The first in his family to earn a high school diploma, Sanchez went on to earn an art scholarship to Brigham Young University. There, when participating in a survival course conducted by Larry D. Olsen, Sanchez’s skills and experience were readily apparent, and Sanchez was invited by Olsen to help develop the BYU Survival courses. He soon began teaching for BYU’s Department of Youth Leadership as well.
“I had been led in a dream to reach out to young people and help them through trying experiences in their lives, and I was shown that should be my path,” he said.
Encouraged by that dream, Sanchez said he felt he was doing the work his creator sent him to do, when, in 1988, he and Olsen — the two wilderness-therapy pioneers — started the ANASAZI Foundation.
Their mission was to provide focused intervention programs that would offer young people, “The opportunity for growth through a primitive living experience and a philosophy that invites healing at the hands of nature.”
Most of all, Sanchez said, “The program brings families back together, so there is healing all around.”
Sanchez said family relationships are crucial to life’s successes. He adds that much of what he has accomplished — and his “true joy” — are because of his wife, Pauline, and their seven children.
With the publication of “The Seven Paths,” the ANASAZI principles are now accessible to all. As Sanchez (as Good Buffalo Eagle) writes in the foreword, this book “presents what might be described as a course in healing — seven elements among nature that combine to heal human hearts.”
In a statement about the release of the book, the publisher explains: “The book comes at a time when too many people today have taken the wrong path. They walk alone, seeking peace and fulfillment in isolation. … This poetic and evocative book, drawing on the personal experiences of Good Buffalo Eagle, presents the meditations of an ancient Native American who rejects his family and community, [but ultimately] discovers the seven paths of the Anasazi way, each path teaching a lesson symbolized by an element of the natural world: light, wind, water, stone, plants, animals, and finally the unity of all beings with the ‘Creator,’ the path of ‘We.’ By walking these paths, he discovers the roots of his conflict and the way toward reconciliation.”
The book is endorsed by bestselling author Richard Paul Evans, pro-football hall of famer Bart Starr and Grammy-award winning musician Wynonna Judd — Judd calls it “inspiring.”
“The Seven Paths” may be ordered online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, indiebound.org, Apple’s iBookstore, Google Play, and Books-A-Million and will be available in bookstores nationwide beginning August 6.
Books are also available at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Dr; Changing Hands will host a public-invited launch party and book signing featuring Ezekiel Sanchez and other members of the ANASAZI staff on Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
To learn more about ANASAZI Foundation, or the “Dream Fund” — organized in honor of Sanchez’s 70th birthday — visit www.anasazi.org.