by John Aldrich
The Giveaway Circle is a central principal of the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program. This Native American tradition is explained in greater detail in this blog about the Program Vision. But briefly, we give of ourselves and our possessions, and we give our best, while we hold no expectation of anything in return. This thought underlies everything we do for the Elders in our program. However, despite the fact that these people have very little themselves, they are often moved to give in return.
During the program at each food run there is a point where Linda asks if anyone has anything they wish to donate to the Program. Some of the Elders or their families always come forward at this point and present things they have made, typically rugs and jewelry such as necklaces. Sometimes the gifts are specifically designated for people such as Linda or the Elder's sponsor, while most are given for the use of the Program. Many of these gifts, particularly the rugs, are used by ANE to honor individuals who have made special contributions to further the work of the Program.
This giving is a part of every food run, but at the recent Navajo Mountain food run there seemed to be an unusually great and spontaneous outpouring of gifts.
The first food run to Navajo Mountain took place in August of 2008 so this was only the sixth run to this location. (By comparison, food runs have been held at Big Mountain for 25 years.) Despite this short history, the people of this remote area have quickly embraced ANE and made the volunteers feel welcome.
When the time came for Elder donations, many stepped forward, and then they just seemed to keep coming. Many had gifts to be passed along to their sponsor, some had gifts for Linda, several had gifts for their sponsors who were present, and some had gifts for the volunteers who were present, and one had gifts for volunteers who helped make the food run possible but couldn't be present.
The following photos show a representative, although incomplete, picture of what happened.
The first to step forward was Elise Greymountain who presented this beautiful ceremonial basket.
Among the Elders at Navajo Mountain there are a number of basket weavers. This particular skill is prevalent along the northern reaches of the reservation where the Navajo people intermixed with Piutes who have a long history of basket making.
Two volunteers were sponsors of Elders at Navajo Mountain, and each received a special gift. Here is Gina Zimmerer with her Elder, Emma Seaton, who presented Gina with a beautiful necklace.
While Nancy Greenwood received this beautiful rug from her Elder, Nancy Greymountain.
Sponsors who weren't present at the food run were not forgotten. Several Elders asked that their gifts be passed along to their sponsors. Cherie Foster of Perth, Australia, adopted Jean Dejolie at the food run last August, and Jean brought this rug to be sent to Cherie.
In her right hand can be seen two necklaces, one of which she presented to me. This was both touching and surprising since, as the photographer, I figure I'm not always the most popular person in the room.
Betty Longsalt, a fine weaver, presented this rug to the Program.
The two new volunteers on this run, Marilyn Cowan and Suzanne Christiansen, were given necklaces by Elise Greymountain and Sylvia Clark.
While Faye Sombero sorts through necklaces that she presented to the other volunteers.
All of the volunteers were deeply moved by this outpouring of giving. For people who have so little to be so generous seems an embodiment of the Giveaway Circle.