By Cecily Markland
For decades, Ezekial Sanchez has lifted others, educating them and giving them a chance to experience a new way of “walking” in the world.
A Totonac Indian from Mexico, Ezekial is known to many as Good Buffalo Eagle or simply as “Zeke.” Many years ago, he was led in a dream to reach out to young people and help them through trying experiences in their lives. .
Encouraged by that dream, Ezekial felt he was doing the work his Creator sent him to do, when, in 1988, he started ANASAZI Foundation, with Larry D. Olsen, his partner in pioneering Brigham Young University’s wilderness programs.
Since then, an estimated 40,000 young people have participated in the ANASAZI programs, which provide an opportunity for growth through a primitive living experience and a philosophy that invites healing at the hands of nature.
The ANASAZI philosophy stems, in part, from Ezekial’s own youth. At a young age, he learned to work and gather wild edibles from the desert to supplement his family’s food supply. In his 14th year, his family joined a band of migrant farm workers.
ANASAZI also was influenced by Native American traditions and Ezekial’s religious beliefs. In 1966, when Ezekial was 23, he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a mission to Texas, was a seminary teacher on the Navajo Reservation and a trainer at the MTC in Provo. He married Pauline in 1974 in the Salt Lake Temple, and they have seven children.
Yet, Ezekial says, the ANASAZI programs are not noticeably tied to the Church.
“We developed our own language and approach. We were wanting to teach correct principles, universal principles, in a way young people would understand,” Ezekial says.
Youth immediately understand the term “backward walking,” as opposed to “forward walking,” which is positive and productive. They also learn powerful lessons about choice, including with the “Blanket Stepping” activity, in which they choose to leave items behind and step onto a new blanket, symbolizing a new beginning.
“Most of all, we focus on the Path of We. We are trying to bring families back together,” Ezekial said.
This year marks Ezekial’s 70th birthday. It also marks an important milestone for him and for ANASAZI, as a powerful book titled, The Seven Paths: Changing One’s Way of Walking in the World, will be published in early August. An adaptation of a book used on the trail for more than a decade, the book makes the ANASAZI principles accessible to all. The Seven Paths will be released August 6 and is now available for advance purchase. 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.”
Also, to celebrate Ezekial’s birthday, friends, family and coworkers have joined in honoring him and in giving back to Ezekial and to his life’s mission.
Many have posted YouTube messages, telling Ezekial what he and his work at ANASAZI mean to them. Those wanting to post a message can upload a video and tag it with #ezekielsanchez and words like “Anasazi Foundation,” “wilderness program” or another descriptor; then, send the YouTube link to email@example.com.
Another way to honor his is to contribute to Ezekial’s Dream Fund, a fund started to help provide the ANASAZI services for families in financial need. The goal is to raise $250,000 to underwrite this fund. Contributions can be one-time gifts or recurring monthly donations.
Visit www.anasazi.org for information and to learn how to contribute.