Monday, April 11, 2011

Oljato-Navajo Mountain Food Run Spring 2011

by John Aldrich

Frequently the weather gods are held responsible for some degree of inconvenience at a food run - - - wind and dust, heat, or even snow, but this spring no fault could be laid at their feet. Although we were chased out of northern Utah by a storm, conditions on the reservation were near-ideal with pleasantly cool, sunny days and no wind to speak of. This was a food run of veterans - there were only two new volunteers. So it was a very comradely group from the outset.

As per the usual routine we met in Mexican Hat at the San Juan Inn on the patio overlooking the San Juan River. This is a beautiful way to start a food run especially with spring in the air, the cottonwoods leafing out, and the birds greeting us enthusiastically.

The river always provides a peaceful and symbolic background to this gathering.

The following day our little convoy made its way through Monument Valley to Oljato and the Senior Center there where we gathered for the group picture.

Then we split into teams to make preparations for the arrival of the Elders and the events to follow. Here's a group working inside to set out the Program giveaways.

A touching moment occurred when John Holiday arrived and presented Oscar Merz with this beautiful bolo tie of silver and turquoise. John is a Navajo medicine man and Elder of considerable local stature. Oscar is held in corresponding esteem by our organization.

As more Elders arrive they are offered beverages while they visit and wait for the program to begin. Here Nancy Greenwood offers tea and coffee.

To end the day at Oljato we must pitch in to help clean up the Senior Center. This team left the facility spotless.

After we leave Oljato the logistical base moves to Kayenta so that we can be closer to Navajo Mountain. The next day begins with a beautiful clear sunrise. Here's the ANE van at the Wetherill Inn.

Outside the Chapter House at Navajo Mountain the men line up the Rainbow Food Boxes, produce, flour, and gift boxes. At this particular food run there is also a gift of water. American Express makes a generous donation to help underwrite this food run and this special gift. Navajo Mountain has had to rely on an unreliable water source for many years. This gift honors the challenge these Elders face in meeting such a simple, basic need.

Here's the muscle power that created the Rainbow Circle.

There was an additional water-related gift this year. Mary Robertson explains that everyone will receive a collapsible water container. Mary drives over from Hardrock, several hours away, to serve as our interpreter at Navajo Mountain.

Giveaways are presented by both the Program and individual volunteers. Here's Fientje with an armful.

The final activity at every food run is loading the Elders' vehicles with everything in the Rainbow Circle. Here a pickup is being loaded by the highly efficient team of men.

The spring food run season is off to a fine start, and we eagerly await the upcoming runs.


  1. Wish I could be there to participate in one of the food runs. But, since I can't I appreciate all of the pictures and information on the blog.

  2. It is wonderful to see pictures that remind me of being there in August, although it looks much colder in these pictures. Fantastic to see Oscar being honoured as I saw him in action at the warehouse and he never stops working! Lovely to see Fientje being busy and also Samantha! Great picture of the men outside, before they become exhausted. Nice photo of the women too, nice to see Gina, Sandy, Wendy etc.