Acceptance Letter: TrueMessages.org
To: True Messages Organization
From: Barefoot Ted McDonald
Subject: Acceptance Letter
Date: February 26, 2021
Dear Michael & Fellow Advisors
For me the formation of the True Messages organization is a dream come true. And to be invited in as an advisor is an honor I accept. Thank you.
I cannot help but feel the spirit of Caballo's vision living on and flourishing within the hopes and aspirations of the True Messages organization. I know firsthand the enthusiasm and love for the peoples, cultures and communities of the Canyons is genuine and deep with all the True Messages advisors and I expect much good to come out of our shared purpose.
As an advisor, I am particularly interested in focusing attention on and garnering more support for the Busureliame Cultural Education Program. Led by a respected, locally vetted Raramuri cultural leader, Makawi, it is like an answer to prayer for me. Busureliame’s grassroots mission is to preserve Raramuri cultural traditions by expanding their program to more locations and training more cultural educators and attracting local volunteers who go to the schools and classrooms using self-published and produced Raramuri language educational materials and by organizing and scheduling school visits and follow ups to share directly with the kids the stories, dances, arts & crafts, traditions, foods, medicines and ceremonies. I am very impressed with what I have learned so far and it is my intention to help in any way that I can to see the program flourish and expand to reach more kids in the Canyons and beyond.
As many of you know, my relationship with the Copper Canyons concretely started 15 years ago in March 2006. You may have read about that experience in the pages of Christopher McDougall's best selling book "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen", the book that introduced millions all over the world to the inspiring story of the Raramuri people and where most meet the namesake of our organization, Micah True (Caballo Blanco), for the first time.
Yet even before 2006, I had my eye on the Copper Canyons. I wanted to see first hand living examples of old school sandal-wearing mountain-running people who had captured my imagination by running 100 mile trail races in the USA in the 1990s and winning! Like an early days surfer wanting to meet a true-to-life “sport of kings” surfer and full-blooded Hawaiian Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku at Waikiki Beach in the 1910s, I wanted to see firsthand what it looked like to ride the big waves of the single-track trails in the magical Copper Canyons alongside local champions like Manuel Luna and Arnulfo Quirmare who had inspired me and who had grown up in sandals.
Over the years I have been watching the transformation of the little community of Urique nestled deep within the Copper Canyons in the heart of the exceptionally beautiful northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The town of Urique has become the focal point and home base for the signature yearly event started by Micah and now known as the Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco. This event and all the festivities and activities leading up to it continues to grow and the number of participants each year is made up of innumerable local children and adults including Raramuri families from the neighboring villages and canyons, Nationales coming from all parts of Mexico and a large and growing numbers of international runners coming from all over the world to participate in the now historical footrace. All this brings new eco-touristical opportunities to the Canyons.
To give some perspective, in 2003 I started a blog called “Barefoot Ted's Adventures”, writing about my personal re-discovery of the importance of the foot as the foundation of all human locomotion. No foot, no humans. I was combining my research into new "running man" theories about human evolution with my own growing interest in footwear history. My conclusion? Sandals = first recreational vehicle enhancement, the foot being the primary human “vehicle” for work and play. Sandals can be thought of as one of the oldest human inventions able to extend range and comfort of movement. Even Adam and Eve had them! Sandals came on the scene with the fig leaf. A modicum of modesty, a little protection for the foot. Human costume 101.
Indeed, the ideal sandal as found throughout the world becomes a piece of “portable ground” that expands comfort range without denigrating the natural strength and functional elegance of the healthy human foot. And as you’ve probably guessed, the traditional Raramuri running kit is a living example of this old school technology still at work today. Indeed, everywhere in world-history sandals are featured, especially among mythic hunters and messengers, warriors and prophets, heroes, kings and athletes. And even today a whole new generation of intrepid adventurers enjoy exploring the world using modern interpretations of an age-old design.LUN. It feels good.
With that kind of insight and inspiration, I embarked on a journey to see if I too could make a go at being a sandal maker. Like a surfer making surfboards, I started riffing on sandal designs in 2003 and by 2007 had reached the point I could run an ultramarathon in a pair. By 2010 I officially started the LUNA Sandal Company. After 10+ years, our little company is still growing and spreading the philosophy of health and happiness through footwear that inspires one to enjoy the simple things. Get outdoors and move everyday! LUNA Sandals contributed to the creation of a new/old niche in the modern footwear market.
The new market took a less=more approach and found willing converts wanting to experience and master the pure joy of learning how to move well in sandals made by people who care about the details, who care about the “feel” of things, who really enjoy helping customers embark on a journey of reawakening with a renewed appreciation of their own feet and a renewed appreciation for the inquisitiveness of our ancestors.
Through my research, I came to see that moving well over complex terrain for long distances has been part of the human experience from the beginning and that outside of pure survival, running has become a way to reconnect to one’s very roots, your feet, through dance and ceremony, games and ritual - feeling that connection has been part of the primal human experience since the beginning. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that there is often an awakening “aha” moment when one reestablishes a healthy relationship with their own two feet. Aha!
2006 has been so permanently inscribed in my mind's eye. It is the year where we all, the main characters in the book Born to Run, got together for the first time and made the journey to the bottom of the Canyons. It was dry and hot and things did seem gloomy with a long drought ongoing. It was the driest part of the dry season. Yet, despite the setting, despite the heat and dryness, Caballo's vision of wanting something good to happen for the whole community was beginning to strike a rhythm. A new heartbeat was heard. The race in 2006 sparked something real that lives on to this day and the True Messages organization is a palpable expression of that original simple vision of good continuing to unfold.
Since 2006, I've been back down to Urique dozens of times, and each time I am re-enchanted and reinvigorated to see more visits and visitors and see more celebrations and sharing. I am committed to long term relationships and the organic growth of events and celebrations in the coming years. I strongly encourage all good-hearted, intrepid adventurers from all over the USA and world to find the time to visit the astonishing place our friends the Raramuri call home.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a way to do something positive for the people who inspired your running journey, helping spread the word about True Messages and the Busureliame program is a great start. Donating directly to the True Messages organization is one way to help. Also be on the lookout for fundraising efforts though the many friends of True Messages mission.
Yours Truly, BFT