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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Scotsman.com News - International - American Indians help to catch Poland's smugglers

Scotsman.com News - International - American Indians help to catch Poland's smugglers

American Indians help to catch Poland's smugglers

ALLAN HALL


POLISH border police fighting smugglers of people, drugs, tobacco, nuclear material and weapons are employing American Indian trackers to guard the frontier with Ukraine.

It is a long way from the burning deserts of Arizona to the gateway to Russia. But Poland believes the methods of ruthless international criminals can be combated with ancient methods that are now being passed on to security forces.

The tracking course is part of a larger programme funded by the United States government’s Defence Threat Detection Agency, whose main aim is to search for America’s most elusive enemies: terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.

The three Native Americans teaching the course - two from the Tohono O’odham tribe and one Navajo - have been holding one-week courses in Poland, and are now in the third and last week of their tour, instructing border patrol officers in the tiny town of Huwniki near the Ukrainian border.

The 26 Polish guards taking part will have learned how to

use damaged leaves, broken branches and even compressed pebbles to tell them where criminals may be hiding or which direction they’ve taken.

Border police group leader Jerzy Ostrowski said: "Sometimes quite a simple thing can be a very important sign. A broken branch or even just part of a footprint can tell us where and how many people are going or what they’re doing."

The Native Americans teaching the course normally work as US Customs patrol officers on the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation in Arizona.

The Shadow Wolves unit, based in Sells, Arizona, was founded in 1972 with around 12 Tohono O’odham Indians to patrol its Arizona reservation, which shares 76 miles of border with Mexico.

Bryan Nez, 55, a Navajo and the eldest of the customs officers teaching the course, says he learned his tracking skills at a young age. "When I was nine years old, my grandfather kicked me out of bed and said: ‘Go tracking’, and I’ve been doing it ever since," Nez said.

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