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Tom Brown Jr. - Controversies

This website has no official or informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever


Tom Brown Jr., like any public figure, is not without his detractors. He has attracted his share of controversy. This section of the website investigates some of these controversies that surround Tom Brown.

The following is an overview and summary of these controversies.

As a person, Tom, like most people, exhibits various character traits. Some people find him to be arrogant and abrasive; some refer to him as a redneck. At the other extreme, others see him as a gentle and loving person. Still another side of Tom that people observe is his deep love for the Earth, coupled with his warrior-like stance in defense of certain parts of the wild Earth.
In short, he's a real person, much like the rest of us, with a wide range of feelings. Unfortunately, many of his students place him high up on a pedestal, and when Tom -- inevitably -- does not measure up to their high standards, they are disappointed. So some of the criticisms of Tom do arise from disillusioned students. Others arise simply from who and what he is as a person.

Another difficulty for some people is that, quite frankly, a lot of the things that Tom claims to be able to do, along with things he teaches, seem to many people to be impossible or unreal.
An excellent example of this are his legendary tracking abilities. Are there many people who can reproduce the tracking results that Tom teaches in his more advanced classes? Therefore, it is hard for some to believe that these tracking techniques are anything but an elaborate fiction. And the only way to prove if they are or not is to learn and practice them. Compounding this is that there are no replicable studies of pressure releases available - no one has proven the pressure releases in any kind of objective study.
Add to this the fact that some of the people who take classes at the Tracker School exhibit an extreme overconfidence in their abilities. This doesn't help Tom's credibility either. Tales abound of arrogant Tracker students who fall flat when they have to prove their alleged abilities in the field (they seem to have conveniently forgotten Tom's admonishment of putting in lots of "dirt time").

And then we come to Stalking Wolf, who was Tom's teacher. He is regarded by some to be an entirely fictional character. This belief is bolstered by the fact that virtually no one can claim to have met Stalking Wolf in person. Additionally, many Native American people, particularly among the Apaches, regard Stalking Wolf as an invention, as he does not seem to be known amongst their people at all. There are those who say they knew Tom when he was young, and that he made up the whole Stalking Wolf and Rick story. Or, alternatively, that these figures did exist, but that all the stories surrounding them were made up or at the very least majorly embellished.
The whole mystique surrounding Stalking Wolf is exacerbated by the fact that the name "Stalking Wolf" is actually a pseudonym, which makes verification of his existence almost impossible (see "Walk Like an Apache").
On the other hand, where on earth did Tom learn to speak various Apache words that students sometimes hear in the Philosophy classes (or is he faking it)?

Tom also receives criticism about the fact that he charges for his classes, or that he charges too much. People have made claims that he is actually very rich, and point to calculations of the fee for classes multiplied by the average number of students in a class, multiplied by the number of classes per year. But no one outside of the inner circles of the Tracker School know how much expenses are actually incurred in running the Tracker School.
Some feel that as a wilderness survival instructor Tom should be living in a primitive wilderness living situation, particularly because he talks a lot about the negative impact our modern lifestyle is having on the Earth.
Others simply feel that he should at least be living a relatively simple lifestyle, free of elements of conspicuous consumption that plague our western lifestyle, such as SUVs, fancy houses, and Rolex watches and myriad electronic gadgets, particularly as he frequently lectures about the damage and disrespect we are doing to the Earth.

There are certain people who have a problem with the spiritual element that permeates the classes. They feel that his Earth-based spirituality has no place in a survival school. However, since most prehistoric people who lived close to the Earth had a very strong spiritual element in their lives, many modern day people feel that it is entirely appropriate to incorporate this.

Some criticisms of Tom arise from misunderstandings of his ways. For example, there is the story of how he attended the Wintercount event one year, and acted like he didn't know anything about survival skills. He also did not fraternize around the campfire in the evenings, preferring instead to keep to himself. Thus others came to think of him as aloof and snobbish. Out of this incident arose a very intense contempt of Tom from the primitive survival community, who believed that Tom didn't know anything yet went on to write books and pretend that he knew all about wilderness survival. This rift in the primitive survival community was partially healed when Tom and Larry Dean Olsen (a main proponent of that rift) met and reconciled their differences in March 1998 (click here for more about this). So, the question arises: did he really learn all his skills from an elderly Apache, or did he learn them from other survival experts?

Tom also blows away people's preconceptions of him when they come to take classes. After reading his books many believe they will meet an enlightened and gentle nature lover. But Tom can be an arrogant angry redneck at times. He smokes, drives a Hummer and wears a Rolex watch. He can also break down sobbing at the destruction that is happening of the Earth at the hands of humans. Is it all an act? Who knows? He appears to be a complex, contradictory and angry, yet loving and compassionate human being. He is definitely not easy to figure out!

Is it all a ruse to deflect people from coming too close and finding out he really knows very little? Or is his behavior simply a shield against adoring multitudes (yes, they are out there) who want to get too close?

In the end...
No one can ever meet Stalking Wolf today to verify his existence first-hand, as he has passed on. And no one can ever meet his childhood friend, Rick, whom the books say is also dead, and whose name was also a pseudonym -- see "Walk Like an Apache".
Only Tom knows the truth about himself. Only Tom knows whether or not he has experienced the things he says he has. And only Tom knows what his abilities are.
And no, Tom Brown is not perfect. Far from it.

The Bottom Line is:
To paraphrase Tom Brown ... "Take what I've taught you out into the wilderness and try it out ... prove me right or prove me wrong." Whether this is simply another of his seemingly arrogant challenges or if it is a genuine request of his students, again, who knows?

What counts is ...
In the end, it's the results of what he teaches that counts. Whether it's all an elaborate fiction or a personally experienced reality, he has inspired many thousands of people to think about the damage we are doing to this beautiful Earth. And further prodded his students to attempt to slow and reverse that destruction, whether or not he himself lives this philosophy fully. He has taught wilderness survival skills, tracking, and earth-based philosophy to thousands, and has given his students the confidence to at least begin to survive in the natural world. He has inspired his students to try to walk more gently upon the Earth. Whether or not they follow through is entirely up to them. And for these things alone, if nothing else and aside from all criticisms, Tom is to be applauded.

This is not an apology or an excuse for Tom, just an attempt at a simple objective statement about the good he has accomplished, along with his flaws. But he is most definitely not a perfect human being, nor should he be placed up on a pedestal and regarded as some sort of guru!

Many say that Tom is also a "coyote teacher" in the true tradition and meaning of the phrase (again, see "Walk Like an Apache"). This means that the truthfulness and factualness of what he teaches is not as important to him as the lessons that the teachings impart. He sees himself as pointing his students towards discovery and realizations, rather than dry repetition of facts. Or, is it just a cover for lack of knowledge?

On the other hand, there is a lot about Tom Brown that absolutely begs the listener/reader to ask, "Did he really do that, or experience that??" Most of the stories he tells are not verifiable by anyone aside from Tom. And quite frankly they do stretch our credulity!

Make up your own mind about Tom Brown Jr.

A final word:
This Tracker Trail website is most definitely not a "love fest" of Tom Brown or the Tracker School. It is not an apology for Tom Brown, nor a defense of him. Nor is it a critique of him or his school. It is not an advertisement for the Tracker School, nor is this site sponsored or endorsed in any way by Tom or the Tracker School. This particular section of the website is an objective presentation of criticisms and controversies about Tom Brown and the Tracker School. Tracker Trail is a completely independent website.

This website has no official or informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever


As you read through the discussions reproduced on the pages in this section, please bear in mind that a certain proportion of the material consists simply of various individual opinions and assertions, some based on fact and experience, and some not. Some may be simply made up, and some other parts may be true. I have not verified any of this material - I am simply presenting it here for you to read. Decide for yourself.


There was an excellent article in the New Jersey Monthly magazine in July 1987 that addresses some of the inconsistencies and controversies about Tom and his school.
Walk Like an Apache
New Jersey Monthly, July 1987, by Tom Dunkel

One person's response to to the question ... Did Grandfather and Rick really exist?
Submitted by PL, July 2011

Brief discussion from the "Anarchy Board"

Brief discussion from the "Wild Edibles" Yahoo Group

A Cult? - Are Tom Brown and the Tracker School a cult? - Here is the text of a discussion that took place on this topic on the Tracker School discussion group on the Internet in 2001. 

Tom Brown & Stalking Wolf are Not Real? - from the Internet - One Tracker student expresses his feeling that Tom "made it all up". With a reply from someone else who did a lot of research to determine whether or not he did.

A millionaire? - Is Tom Brown Jr. a millionaire? Does he charge too much for his classes? Should he be charging anything at all? Here is some of the debate. From the Tracker mailing list (Internet) September 1997..


This website has no official or informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever


Tom Brown Jr.      Controversies      Tracker School

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