Shadow Wolves

by Francesca Gentile

The Shadow Wolves are a security unit on the reservation of the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona, adjacent to the border with Mexico. The group was established in 1972 and is comprised of Native Americans living in and around the region wanting to protect their sacred lands. The Shadow Wolves’ main concern is drug smugglers traveling across the border from Mexicointo the United Stateswho do not have respect for the land. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recognize the Shadow Wolves as a unit of protection[1] for the reason that they are trained and fight to guard the border and nation and have been effective for forty years. The Shadow Wolves’ approach to hunting smugglers and to aid in the prevention of drug trafficking is similar to that of an actual wolf pack. A wolf pack hunts, travels and spends the majority of their activities together because they are a social species.[2] Each member of the wolf pack has its own position in bettering the whole of the group, following the orders of the Alpha Male and Female the pack travels, hunts, and patrols the land successfully.[3] The Shadow Wolves have individual roles following the orders from the leader of the team in keeping the area clear of trespassers. Patrolling the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Shadow Wolves are the only Native American tracking group officially recognized by the Department of Homeland Security.[4] In recent years the tracking unit has annually seized on average sixty thousand pounds of illegal drugs inside an area covering 2.8 million acres.[5] To join the Shadow Wolves a candidate must be one-quarter Native American and officially belong to a tribe recognized by the federal government.[6] The unit includes members from the Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Sioux, Lakota, Blackfeet, Omaha and the Yaqui tribes.[7] Originally made up of about twenty-one male members, the group, now counts both men and women among its fifteen members.

The Shadow Wolves train very hard in order to spot even the smallest evidence of transgression of their reservation, such as a faded foot print or abandoned item left by trespassers. Most of the early members learned the techniques from their grandparents[8] and travel to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia[9] to demonstrate the extreme training of their ancient techniques to other border patrols officials. One of the methods used by the Shadow Wolves to spot intruders is called cutting. Cutting entails searching and analyzing a sign of physical evidence of intruders. In some cases, the trained eye of a Shadow Wolf is able to notice a faint footprint or a snagged twig or branch.[10] In addition to cutting, the unit uses some modern technology as well.

The Shadow Wolves track trespassers because these people are so often disrespectful of the sacred and religious lands of the several tribes that make up the unit.

Further Readings:

National Geographic Channel. “Shadow Wolves: Border Warriors.” National Geographic  Channel. http://natgeotv.com/uk/shadow-wolves-border-warriors (accessed    February 6, 2012).

Shadow-Wolves.org. “Shadow Wolves: of theUSCustoms Service.” Shadow-Wolves.org. http://www.shadow-wolves.org/hj (accessed February 6, 2012).

Wheeler, Mark. “Shadow Wolves.” Smithsonian Magazine, January 2003. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/wolves.html (accessed 6, 2012).

 


[1] U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Fact Sheet: ICE Shadow Wolves.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/shadow-wolves.htm (accessed February 6, 2012).

[2] The Wolf Pack. http://www.wolfweb.com/facts-pack.html (accessed April 24, 2012)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. “Shadow Wolves.” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Wolves (accessed February 6, 2012).

[5]  U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Fact Sheet: ICE Shadow Wolves.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/shadow-wolves.htm (accessed February 6, 2012).

[6] Bennett, Brian, “Indian ‘Shadow Wolves’ Stalk Smugglers On Arizona Reservation,” Tribune Washington bureau, November 24, 2011. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/21/nation/la-na-adv-shadow-wolves-20111122 (accessed February 6, 2012).

[8] Millar, Kathleen, “Last of the Original Shadow Wolves Retires,” Customs and Border Protection Today (January/February 2004).  http://www.cbp.gov/xp/CustomsToday/2004/JanFeb/lambert.xml (accessed March 20, 2012).

[9] U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Fact Sheet: ICE Shadow Wolves.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/shadow-wolves.htm (accessed February 6, 2012).

[10] U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Fact Sheet: ICE Shadow Wolves.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/shadow-wolves.htm (accessed February 6, 2012).

 

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