Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rug Show 2010

by John Aldrich

This year's rug show was held from November 12th to November 14th and was again a heart-warming success. Twenty-eight Elders and weavers, along with their families, traveled from the reservation to Deer Valley in Park City for the event. As always, the show proceeds were all returned to the reservation to help see the families through the upcoming winter.

Although the public portion of the show starts Friday evening and extends through Sunday, there is actually much more that happens at the event. Planning, of course, extends throughout the year, but the real activities begin on Wednesday when many volunteers gather at the Snow Park Lodge to set up the show. It seems like a daunting task at first, but with many seasoned veterans on hand, the transformation takes place in roughly five hours. The following photo shows Becky Harris with the group that helped set up the central table with displays of jewelry, dolls, and other craft items.

The Navajo families begin arriving Wednesday afternoon and are escorted to condos that have been donated for their use during the event. Each condo has been stocked with food for the next five days, and on Wednesday evening a welcoming dinner is held. This year a local Navajo family offered to cater this meal which made it an even more special event.

On Thursday and Friday school children are invited to come to the show to witness demonstrations of Navajo culture. Coordinating this with the schools, teachers, children and their parents is a big job and was handled capably this year by Masuda Medcalf who is seen below with the first round of students on Thursday morning.

While at the show the children get to see demonstrations of weaving, yarn preparation, corn grinding, and hear about other aspects of Navajo culture; they also listen to singing and story telling. At the end they also get a taste of traditional fry bread. In the next photo students watch attentively as Elders weave.

Thursday afternoon, after the final school program, entertainment is provided in the form of a "game". This year the theme was quilts. Over forty hand-made quilts were made by volunteers and then presented while being "modeled" by volunteers. Elders and weavers could then choose by quilt or model.

Thursday evening a dinner is held at the Grub Steak Restaurant in Park City with the food donated by the restaurant. This event provides an opportunity to honor various people who have worked on the show or who have otherwise made significant contributions to the Program during the year. Program co-founder, Grace Smith Yellowhammer, received one of the new Pendleton ANE limited edition blankets.

Friday night is the official opening of the show to the public. This is a fund raiser for the Program and includes an auction which was again very successful as well as entertaining.

Over the course of the following two days a variety of events take place in addition to the selling of rugs and crafts. Saturday morning is the time to crown the new Shi Yazhi princess. This year the honor fell to Sariah Williams.

On both Saturday and Sunday weaving demonstrations are conducted during which each weaver has a chance to describe their rugs and what weaving means to them. Here Julius Chavez, a fine local male weaver, describes the great cultural significance of the weavers' tools.

Saturday afternoon is the time for the popular Navajo Grandma Idol contest. Loosely based on the American Idol model, the participants are given a theme and have only a few minutes to come up with a related song. This year the theme was herding sheep and the winner, Carol Blackhorse, was the oldest Elder at the show. At 96, Carol is still going strong, and her family has a challenge keeping her off her horse.

 The top three finishers, determined by audience response, received special prizes, but all participants received stuffed sheep in appreciation for their efforts.

The annual veterans ceremony is held on Sunday morning. During this moving event, all veterans in the audience are individually honored. We often have a Navajo Code Talker as guest speaker, but this year we actually had two. This is very unusual as there aren't many of these heroes left.

The final event of the show is the popular Pow Wow featuring singing and a variety of dancing. A crowd favorite every year is the hoop dancer.

This has been just a quick overview of the event. If you are interested in seeing additional photos you are invited to view a slide show of pictures from the event.

But nothing can take the place of actually being there, so we hope to see you all next year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Walk In Beauty

by Cindy Cook

(Note: This year Cindy and Ray Coleman took over the Walk In Beauty Program from its founder, Wendy Sanborn, who is now fully absorbed with her duties as ANE's assistant director.)

“Do my new shoes have stars on them?  Do my new shoes have hearts on them?”  When the answer was yes, the little girl said with enthusiastic joy, “My new shoes have stars and hearts on them!!”

We were delivering an order of Walk In Beauty shoes to Mexican Hat Elementary when the little girl made her way in to the room in leg braces and with the assistance of crutches.  It wasn’t until we saw her holding her new shoes within about an inch of her face and feeling them with her fingertips that we realized she was also severely visually impaired.  Once the shoes were on her feet, we watched while, supported by her crutches, she bounced up and down on her toes to “try out” her new shoes.  Her teacher later told us she came back to the classroom, held out one foot and exclaimed, “Look at my new shoes!”

This past October we delivered nearly 300 pairs of new shoes to young children in 11 different schools on the Navajo reservation.  Based on funding, we determine how many pairs of shoes each school will receive.  We then work with coordinators at each school who identify the children most in need of new shoes.  Our coordinators measure each child’s feet and ask them what color they prefer.  The orders are then sent to us to fill.

Our school coordinators are an inspiring group.  Each has taken on this role in addition to the assignment they already hold at the school.  They are nurses, reading interventionists, office staff, and teachers.  They have a deep love for the children and an intense desire to help make each child’s educational experience more meaningful.

Dilkon Community School was added to our delivery this fall.  Our coordinator there told us of her primary role working with displaced and homeless children.  Her words gave us an even greater appreciation of how meaningful and important something as simple as a pair of shoes can be to a young child in need. While at Dilkon, one boy saw his younger brother’s name on a pair of shoes.  He ran and got his brother and helped him lace up his new shoes.  Both had huge smiles on their faces.

Each pair of shoes we deliver is purchased for a specific child.  After receiving the orders from the schools, our volunteer buyers go shopping.  Once they’ve filled the orders, they remove packing material, lace and tie the shoes together, and tag the shoes with the child’s name and school.  Janet Dalton, Robin Field-Williams, Anna Law, and Jessie Bigelow all gave graciously of their time to make certain each child had their preferred color in their correct size for the fall delivery.

Shoe buying is a great opportunity to educate others about Walk In Beauty and ANE.  While pushing a cart overflowing with shoes through check-out a clerk asked, “Are you a school teacher?”  Customers in line will often ask why we’re buying so many shoes.  One lady even asked if a buyer was a polygamist.

Delivery of the shoes is done in a way that honors the children.  We don’t simply drop them off.  Instead, we take time to try each pair of shoes on the children to ensure they fit properly.  And, if for some reason they don’t, we take another measurement and buy and ship the child a pair of shoes as soon as we return home.

During one fitting a young boy asked, “Are these running shoes?”  We said we didn’t know and asked, “Do they look like running shoes?”  “Yes,” he said.  “Well then, they must be running shoes.”  He started running all over the class room.  He came back and said, “My shoes run so fast!”  He was running as he left.

After putting on his shoes, another boy asked, “Can I keep these shoes?”  We asked him to stand up and let us make sure they fit.  We said we thought they fit and asked if he thought they fit.  He said they, “…fit real good.”  So we told him he could keep them.  He was quiet for a moment and then looked up and said, “My mom is gonna be so happy she doesn’t have to buy me shoes.”

Making Walk In Beauty shoe deliveries is both heart warming and heart wrenching.  It is difficult to see the shoes the children have been wearing.  Some have pushed down the back of their shoes so they can slip on a pair that is far too small for their feet.  Others wear an older sibling’s larger shoes that don’t allow them to run and are a potential tripping hazard.

A little boy came in with glasses held together by wire on his down turned face.  He seemed very timid when asked to try on his shoes.  He didn’t have on socks and his little feet were extremely dirty.  We put a clean pair of socks on him and then helped him with his shoes.  Once they were on his feet, he asked, “How much did these shoes cost?”  We said we didn’t know and asked how much he thought they cost.  He said, “Fifty dollars.”  Then he said, “My mom will be so proud.”  As he was headed back to class, he said, “My new shoes feel so much better.”

The shoes we buy don’t cost “fifty dollars.”  On average, they cost $20 per pair.  We buy from the same stores where other kids at the schools typically buy from.  We do this so the kids’ new shoes won’t be singled out as too cheap or too fancy by their peers.

It is difficult to consider going through the day with improper fitting shoes or shoes so worn through you can’t keep out the dirt, rain or snow.  Even more difficult is the realization that $20 is all it takes to put a quality pair of shoes on a child and significantly alter their educational experience.

We have memories of the expectant looks on the children’s faces when we arrived and their joyous smiles when they received their new shoes.  We feel so fortunate to be a part of helping children on the Navajo Reservation Walk In Beauty.

If you would like to learn more or make a donation to this program please visit the Walk In Beauty page of our web site.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cherie's Food Run Memories

by Cherie Foster

(note: Cherie, from Perth, Western Australia, attended her first food run August 24th-26th, 2010 at Oljato and Navajo Mountain. See her previous blog for reflections on her overall experience coming to Utah and working with ANE.)

I left Salt Lake City for the Oljato-Navajo Mountain fall food run with a deeply saddened heart due to the passing of someone very dear to me three days prior. If it wasn’t for this person I wouldn’t have had the strength, courage and perseverance to end up at a food run in another country. It is no coincidence that this special one, who influenced my life so remarkably, had Native American ancestry. Such is the beauty, majesty and magic of the Native American culture, miracles occurring always around us as a whisper to our souls, if we listen with peace and love in our hearts. On the journey of life people appear and change our lives, often dramatically. This beautiful soul has done this for me, and his memory will always have a special place in my extremely grateful heart.

It took about seven hours drive south of Salt Lake City to arrive at our overnight destination of Mexican Hat. The volunteers, who drive their own cars, meet with food run coordinators Linda and Wendy once everyone is checked in . We all gathered under a large shady tree, a welcome respite from the heat, overlooking the expansive river gorge. On the other side of the gorge, the Navajo Reservation begins.

After Linda breathed a sigh of relief that all drivers, cars and supplies had arrived safely, we prepared for the ceremony. Women were to wear their long skirts, which they had brought to wear on the food runs. The Navajo women traditionally wear long skirts, so to respect their culture, this is what the volunteer women wear. The men wear long pants or jeans for the same reason.

As we lined up to be smudged by Beverly, a long serving volunteer, a hummingbird hovered over our heads then darted off. I had not experienced one that close, and it was a little intimidating, yet exhilarating! I knew a little of a hummingbird presence meaning 'magic of a joyful heart' in Lakota tradition, and the sighting was confirmation of what I already felt amongst the group.

As we entered the ceremony area, we were to place any items to be blessed on the edge of the skin in the centre. I had recently been gifted four fetishes by another dear friend, Cheryl, so I placed these there. She had given me a horse, turtle, horny toad and a bear, some of which were to appear symbolically later in my journey to teach me lessons.

The theme for the 2010 fall food runs was Harvest God. We were all asked to contribute our own story about a seed we had planted which could be an idea, a project, an activity, or a practice. There were tears from many in the circle as their stories were told. It felt healing, even in the company of strangers, for as Jay Tavare had told me ’The hearts of everyone have a bond’, and that is especially evident in the ceremony at the commencement of a food run. The ceremony went for about two hours in the picturesque gardens of the hotel, watched over by two mourning doves.

Dawn the next morning brought forth a glorious full moon, perfect for photographs with the surrounding rock formations. We all assembled for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, anticipation and excitement in the air, especially for those of us attending our first food run. We drove out in convey, in specific order, to enable cars loaded with boxes and supplies for the first food run drop off at Oljato, to be in front. As soon as we crossed the bridge we were on the Reservation and stopped to have the cars smudged again by Beverly.

It was at that moment, waiting to see the smoke from the blessing, that I saw the boxes loaded in the car in front with numbers (indicating particular Elders) with one in my hand writing, I realized that I was about to see the conclusion of the learning I'd done during the three previous weeks at the ANE offices. I'd seen the orders come in on the computer, in the mail, even taken some over the phone, and now was about to experience the final destination of all the work that goes into providing the Navajo Elders with nourishment for their physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well being.

Driving to Oljato through Monument Valley was spectacular. The colours of the rock formations are exquisite. Photographs do not give the full scope of this expansive beauty. I think it took around thirty minutes to drive to Oljato. I was enjoying the scenery too much to notice the time! I saw many different crows along the way. I saw dogs guarding and guiding a flock of sheep, which we had to slowly navigate through. Seeing donkeys and horses roaming freely without fencing was wonderful.

We arrived at the Oljato Chapter house, and there were Elders already inside waiting! There was a sign stating only those with invitations only are to attend, as others who aren't in the program do show up sometimes. They are provided with lunch that everyone receives but there are protocols that must be adhered to before an Elder can be accepted in the ANE program.

The cars were unloaded by the men. They do a fantastic job working in the heat. Food, medical, Grandma, Grandpa, and Children’s boxes, Bluebird flour, and some fresh produce such as potatoes and onions are all stacked in cars and vans. Boxes are stacked in numerical order to be marked off with the checking of the name tag that the Elders are given and must be wearing to ensure everything is authenticated.

Inside, the women unpacked giveaways and put them on display. Once that was done introductions were done by Bessie, the Navajo translator. It was fantastic to hear her talk. I was introduced as being a volunteer from Australia, and they all seemed shocked! Food certificates from sponsors were given out. A couple of games were played with Linda calling upon Elders. It was hilarious. They seemed to enjoy themselves. It is like a party for them. After all the formalities were done the Elders were given a large plastic bag with which to receive gifts. Volunteers took giveaways which the program had bought such as shampoo, cookies, socks, bandannas, warm jackets, kitchen and laundry items and many other gifts. Then the volunteers served lunch. After lunch there were items for sale such as jewelry and rugs. I bought a few pieces from different sellers and was gifted a cedar bead necklace from a woman I had purchased from. I was touched by her generosity. While the volunteers shopped and cleaned up, Linda and Wendy had purchased items they could sell for the Elders. Meanwhile outside, the men were loading boxes into cars.

During the morning I had listened to the Elders greeting each other and talking amongst themselves and sometimes with a sponsor and translator. It is a wonderful experience to see the connection and to listen to the beautiful language. I was thrilled to absorb those moments and tell myself that I really was there, the place I’d been dreaming of being for a couple of years.

In the afternoon we headed to our next overnight destination at Kayenta. Mostly people headed to the Holiday Inn for dinner, but I was excited to have an authentic Navajo taco at the Golden Sands cafe behind our hotel! Locals were everywhere, which made it feel even more special. Fientje, whom I had driven with, has done the food run and many others before, so she knows where to go and has extensive knowledge, which I was eager to listen to. We had a wonderful dinner.

Next morning we headed to our final destination of Navajo Mountain. As I breakfasted outside, enjoying the beauty of sunrise, I again saw a crow fly back and forth. I hadn't seen any since arriving in Salt Lake City, three weeks ago, so was thrilled to have seen so many on the Reservation. We headed to a car park of a shopping centre, where the cars were again smudged by Beverly, which was different to yesterdays scenic smudging! It took longer to reach Navajo Mountain and a different landscape, yet still beautiful.

We arrived and set up as the previous day; those of us on our first food run, now knew the routine.
While waiting for some of the Elders to arrive I greeted some Elders and tried to do my best with the Dine greeting of 'ya at eeh', but I'm not sure how it sounded with an Australian accent!

An Elder woman I met who was accepted to the program on this day started talking to myself and John the photographer ,and when John went to take pictures, we kept talking. She then pulled out two lovely necklaces she had made and said she would like to gift me one and I was to choose. I was surprised and overwhelmed by her kindness! I checked about protocol of being able to accept it or if it was for the program. She had told me before bringing out the necklace that her fingers were getting difficult to work, and this also affected her weaving. The translator this time was Mary who I had met previously in Salt Lake City. She knows of my Elders at Big Mountain, so it was nice to see her again. After I'd been introduced again to the Elders after the formalities, one of the Elders Morris, presented me with a beautiful cedar bead necklace. I couldn't believe it! These people who have so little are extremely generous.

The people of Navajo Mountain had a different energy from the Oljato group of Elders. I asked other volunteers if this was typical of other food run destinations. Apparently it is. Each place has a different feel and of course it is in part due to the individuals and their personalities.

At the end of the day when we did our closing Ceremony circle, one of the Elder women, she was a tiny woman, around the height of a child, came and started talking nonstop in Navajo. She was precious and adorable, even if we could not understand a word of what she said! When we finally located her relative, I asked her age and was astounded when he said eighty nine and she was his mother!

I left Navajo Mountain and the Reservation with renewed vigour of what you can bring to the world and what it can bring to you. Interaction in the world with the gift of giving, helps heal the giver and the recipient.

Fientje, my dear friend and driver, and I reflected on the food run as we drove off the Reservation. She asked me what I was feeling, and I responded that I felt tranquil, serene, and peaceful. Really, the feeling cannot adequately be put into words. She said every time she attends a food run she comes away with this feeling. You need to experience it for yourself. Go on a food run with an open heart, and you will be fulfilled beyond measure. Only you with your individual circumstances and where you are on the journey of your life, can obtain from this extraordinary interaction.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cherie's Memories

by Cherie Foster

(Note: Cherie, from Perth, Western Australia, came to Salt Lake City August 1st, 2010 and stayed until September 6th. Her story shows how deeply the Program can affect people at a personal level. Those of us who had the privilege of meeting her were inspired by her commitment as well as her adventurous spirit.)

I found Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program towards the end of 2008 on a website of actor Jay Tavare. I was looking to see what other work he had done and find out more about him, as I’d seen him in the television production called Into the West. Jay had written about his association with ANE, which prompted me to investigate why this organization meant so much to him. I perused the ANE website and was impressed with the program and how they helped the Navajo Elders. I had visited the area nineteen years prior, and the Native American culture had fascinated me, not for any particularly explanatory reason. I enjoyed reading about their culture and the different nations. Along with that reading, came the sadness of the hardships and unfortunate circumstances which these first people of the continent that is now America, have had to deal with. The ANE program appeared to be helping substantially to assist the Elders, not just with supplies, but also with human to human contact which included sincere empathy. This was an organization I decided to become involved with as being able to see where donations were dispersed is important to me. In 2010 I was finally able to adopt an Elder and ended up receiving two, a husband and wife. I was thrilled to have an adopted Grandpa and Grandma! When the opportunity arose to travel to the USA in 2010, I was hesitant. Traveling by myself was not my ideal situation. To experience the world, I knew I must more deeply pursue the courage, strength and fortitude that I had discovered in myself a few months previously, thanks to an inspiring Native American of Apache ancestry who had given me inspiration to hope and dream for my future. Thankfully, when organizing the journey, I could not see my traveling to the USA was about to give me challenges that exceeded anything I had encountered before (including a devastating loss about to occur) or I wouldn’t have gone. Such is the mystery of life, sometimes leading down a road seemingly unable to be traversed for the huge boulders strewn in the direction one is going. Gradually the boulders become stones and pebbles as experience and lessons are discovered that are sometimes beneficial beyond recognition at the time of intense emotion and useless had they been revealed before the traveler was ready to listen and learn.

I embarked on my travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, with trepidation, as I knew no one. I had briefly corresponded with Joyce at ANE via the internet, asking advice about accommodations and supermarkets near to the warehouse where I would be volunteering. Joyce has been extremely helpful and enthusiastic, so at least I had one contact. Still it was daunting to be going there alone. I don’t think Americans understand that for foreigners, the USA is like another planet. Even though we all speak English, there are a lot of differences such as driving on the opposite side of the road, tipping, spelling English words differently, the date written differently, zip codes instead of post codes, and trying to understand accents can be difficult too. As I’m sure my Australian accent was challenging for some Americans!

Thankfully I had a friend in California, my dear Laura, whose gentle guidance ensured that I pursued and followed through with my desire to visit ANE. Laura’s persistence in being everything I could need in a friend was priceless on my journey before leaving home and while in the USA. Her constant reassurance and calm assertive attention assisted me in following my dream to visit ANE and its people. Laura’s tremendous gift of wisdom, of which I have been a recipient many times over, has been greatly influenced by her Native American Sioux ancestry. The Lakota culture is beautiful and powerful, of which I am always astounded and grateful that I have had the opportunity of receiving the wisdom that comes my way. When I faced my most difficult challenge just before the important food run, Laura was there as always, guiding me forward, encouraging and empathetic. The perfect example of the definition of friendship that I have been blessed to have in my life started with Laura and as I was about to find out, was about to continue with blessings from new friends coming into my life in Utah.

I arrived in Utah the day before I was to start work at the ANE office/warehouse in Salt Lake City. My first sunset in Utah was spectacular, even viewed from a hotel room overlooking a highway! The first day of work I walked from my hotel to the office on Gregson Ave, which ended up being a not so good idea as it was extremely hot. Joyce had tried to warn me, but I needed to find out for myself. Joyce offered to pick me up every day and drop me off at home as it was on her way to work, so I gratefully accepted! My first day at the office was fascinating. As Joyce showed me around I noticed a colour photograph of my Elders on the notice board! I was thrilled to see the picture from the newsletter in colour. There are wonderful photographs on the walls around the office of volunteers, Elders, and the events of ANE. Also there are many photo albums, which I was finally able to peruse a couple of weeks later. Joyce began to show me straight away what her daily work consisted of. The orders were coming in over the phone and internet for the fall food runs and had to be processed, which was time consuming. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect time to learn how ANE operated. Actually that wasn’t my intention when I decided to go to ANE to volunteer. I thought I would be in the warehouse working, even on non volunteer days. Joyce had other ideas and once I started, I realized why. The administrative work was out of control! There was so much to do, which was wonderful for me to learn and great for Joyce that she had assistance. Of course she could handle it all herself, but it isn't good to be going at such a frantic pace every day. Joyce had been training volunteers to help her in the office, so I would be working with them in the following weeks. Gina was extremely helpful to me when Joyce was busy. Her smile lights up a room, as does her generous heart. As I was about to find out Joyce was a wealth of knowledge and was kind enough to share it with me in enabling me to learn how the ANE administration operated. Joyce also has a hidden talent. If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, she is able to assist. Her instincts and empathy are a precious gift.

I was nervous and excited about meeting everyone, especially Linda. Her writings in the newsletter frequently had me teary, so I expected that meeting her in person would be an interesting experience. As it happened she was there the second day, as it was Tuesday volunteer day at the warehouse. Linda gave me an embrace as soon as she met me, which took me by surprise as we did not know each other. It was that moment that gave me insight into why this organization was successful.

Everyone started to appear as volunteer hours started, and I had my first introductions. Joyce was fabulous in letting me know who everyone was. I recognized people from their pictures that had been in the newsletters and on the ANE blog website. I met Wendy, Beverly, Gina, Oscar, Cheryl, Elinda, Art, Sandy, Dean, Roger, Ed, Nancy, Sheila, Fientje, and Janet. I left Joyce and headed out back to the warehouse where I was able to help with backpacks for the children. We the volunteers were loading them with school supplies. I was excited to be experiencing what I had seen volunteers do in pictures! Three hours goes quickly and then it was time for everyone to leave. I asked Beverly questions about weaving as I am fascinated as to how it is done. Beverly was patient with my questions and I learnt much from her. When it was quiet again I resumed helping Joyce in the office. The view out the window is spectacular with the huge mountains looming in the distance. After work Joyce took me around Salt Lake City. We drove around with Joyce familiarizing me with the layout of the streets and landmarks. She drove up the top of a mountain where I could overlook the valley and was able to see the entire city. Such a spectacular place and difficult to imagine the roads were on would be covered in snow in a few months! Joyce was my Salt Lake City tour guide and the time I was there we had many days of fun driving around after work having dinner, shopping, talking, laughing and learning about each other. Joyce is amazing and has so much knowledge! We settled into a daily work routine which really consisted of me asking lots of questions about how to do everything Joyce gave me.

Friday of my first week I met further volunteers Sandy, Boyd, Rodger, John, Eileen, Shirley, Mary Anne, Masuda, Betsy and Katie. Friday’s activity was quilting, as quilts were being made for the Grandmas to be presented to them at the rug show in November. There is always something to do at the warehouse. The enthusiasm of the volunteers astounded me. They are willing to give up time as well as use their own money and contacts to help the Elders. No challenge is too great for them.

 One of the volunteers, my new friend Cheryl took me mountain climbing and wildflower viewing on my first Saturday in Utah. The wildflowers were spectacular. Talking to Cheryl I realized why I’d been feeling so tired the first week. Seems the elevation was affecting me. Apparently it takes a while to adjust. I didn’t realize until I left Utah just how affected my health had been by the elevation. I now know I function best at sea level! Cheryl was a fantastic tour guide over many days during my stay in Salt Lake City and took me to a favourite restaurant of her family, where I had the best Mexican I’d ever tasted! She also got me addicted to a Mexican drink called Jarrito and Tony Hillerman books. Cheryl is also responsible for me falling in love. With Harvey her adorable dog!

My second week I was privileged to stay with Linda and Rodger where I was able to work at the ANE Park City office , the farmer’s market, and attend an ANE rug show meeting. I was fascinated to learn about Linda and Rodger’s journey through life, which had brought them to the place they now are. They were generous, kind and thoughtful to me and I will always remember their wonderful hospitality. I like to walk, so spending time walking with Linda was special to me. Her experience and words of wisdom also helped me on my journey. Park City is beautiful and Linda showed me around and what she does, such as picking up the mail, depositing donations at the bank etc. I was pleased to see where the Sundance festival is held and learnt that she had met Robert Redford. Learning different aspects of how ANE administration works at the Park City office was interesting. Much work goes into process of ANE functioning and I hadn’t thought about that until I saw it for myself and was involved in some of it. I was able to have a glimpse of the roles of people at ANE and it was great to see how the Elders are benefiting from time and effort. I was also able to spend more time with Wendy and getting to know how busy her schedule is. ANE and especially Linda are gifted to have her input, knowledge and sweet disposition.

The ANE stall at the farmer’s market was fun. The wind likes the market too, frequently increasing wind speeds unexpectedly to catch people off guard and then laughing at their reactions! Lots of people like the Navajo handmade crafts for sale, especially the jewellry. I was able to purchase a beautiful silver and black bracelet named The Storyteller, which has pictures engraved of Navajo life and the scenery, which now reminds me of my time visiting the Reservation while on the food run. I experienced the unique taste of a Navajo taco while at the farmer’s market. Delicious! Also I had a scrumptious mixed berry ice cream which was a refreshing respite from the heat.

Another volunteer Masuda, also now one of my new friends, was generous with her time, taking me out to eat in various locations in Salt Lake City and Park City and to do quilting with Betsy and Katie. Masuda took me to the location of the rug show at Snow Park Lodge so I was able to identify what I’d seen in newsletters and pictures. Now since I’m familiar with the location it will mean more when I see the rug show pictures. We had a marvelous brunch in Park City, some of the best food I’ve ever tasted and drawing on the tablecloth was something I’d never done before! Sometimes experiences shared cannot be put into words and sometimes no words need be spoken. Such is this unexpected friendship, which surprised me and came to me exactly when I needed it most.

John and Virginia were also wonderful to me. Long time volunteers, they are much involved with ANE. John’s photographs have been influential in my wish to get to ANE and experience it for myself as he manages to capture the essence of the program. It is a gift to be able to do that with words and pictures. So, thanks to John, someone in a land far away was able to grasp the essential meaning of Adopt-A-Native-Elder program. Virginia, with her sparkling, vibrant eyes took me to her home, so I was able to add to my experience of seeing how Utahns live! The three of us had a wonderful day talking and touring exquisite gardens in the city. I shall always remember the most delicious authentic Lebanese I’ve ever had.

Beverly, a long time volunteer at ANE was gracious in giving me rides to ANE events. She told me about her ancestry, of which I was fascinated. Her laugh makes me smile even now remembering the sound. Beverly is always busy, yet maintains calm and I’ll always have a visual memory of her working, surrounded by the wonderful rainbow colours of yarn.

I drove with another new friend Fientje on the food run. When I say drive, I didn’t drive at all, only as a passenger. There was no way I was attempted to drive on the opposite side of the road. It was scary enough being a passenger and not because Fientje’s driving was bad! We had a fantastic time on the food run, talking, laughing, crying, and for me, learning from her. Upon our return Fientje invited me to stay at her cabin north of Salt Lake City. I saw wild moose for the first time and wild deer. I hand fed a doe and was able to touch her mouth and tongue. It was a magical moment for me as my name means ‘dear one’ in French. While cruising around searching for wildlife I was astounded (and nearly fell off my seat) to see a road sign named ‘Apache Way’. An astonishing sight for me personally as it was a remarkable Apache, who had been influential in me traveling from the other side of the world to arrive to that moment in time in front of the road sign. Life sure is strange. I had gotten well into being homesick by this time and miraculously Fientje had Vegemite at the cabin. Most people don’t like the taste of vegemite. It is an Australian acquired taste, children grow up with it in sandwiches for school, and I was pleased to see my old friend and the best toast I’d had since leaving home! Fientje also introduced me to the namesake of the city where I stayed for five weeks. The Great Salt Lake was a vision of the like which I had not seen before. Fientje’s generosity is endless.

On my last weekend I spent a day at the sheepdog trials at Soldier Hollow where ANE had a tent with volunteers working, displaying rugs, jewelry, etc for purchase. Some Navajo weavers were there, giving weaving demonstrations, which was fascinating for me to see, as I have purchased a few rugs and while there, realized that I’m not the only one with that addiction!

Everyone I spent time with associated with ANE, when we were not working, told me about their connection with the program, how they had become involved, what they do to assist. It became apparent to me that helping the Elders and their families has become an integral part of their lives, like another family member. For such is their dedication and heartfelt compassion, respect and love for the Navajo that this is now normal and they do what needs to be done to help these unique people in the best ways possible to keep their traditions alive.

I’m grateful to Linda for allowing me to participate in the daily processes of the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program. I’m grateful to Joyce for her patience in allowing me to learn and teaching me how ANE functions. I’m grateful for everyone for their assistance and patience in showing me what to do in the warehouse and help on the food run. Lastly, I’m grateful for the friendships I have been blessed to make, for without friends the journey would not have been as magnificent as it was. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of hearts and souls at Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Recent Food Runs

by Elizabeth Rose

(Note: Liz is an ANE volunteer from Surprise, Arizona, who has been attending the food runs to Sanders, Big Mountain, and Teesto for a number of years. She is a professional travel writer and has written more extensively about her experiences in her own blog which is referenced by the links.  The photos in this blog are from previous food runs while Liz's own images are seen on her blog site.)

I am one of many Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program volunteers. While I haven't adopted an Elder, haven't been to the Salt Lake City warehouse, or had the pleasure of volunteering at the annual Park City rug show, I'm a consistent volunteer and supporter of the program. I work the food runs.

While on the Sanders-Teesto-Big Mountain food run this fall I blogged my experiences. I've been participating in this food run for over three years now and thoroughly enjoy the experience.  I'm a travel writer and this fits right in with what I do for a living. Voluntourism is fast becoming a meaningful way to travel. Travel, learn, enjoy, and do some good while you're at it!

On the fall food run, we were blessed with amazing weather. It was warm, yet crisp enough in the mornings to remind us that winter is right around the corner.  We knew that the Elders had had a very tough winter and we wanted to provide all we could to help them in the upcoming cold season.

On my blog, Travel Writer Rants and Raves, you can follow my experiences day by day. Here are some excerpts from the fall food run entries:

Day 1: We gathered in Winslow, Arizona at the Lodge Motel. It was wonderful to see old friends and meet new volunteers. It is always a good feeling to know that new people continue to join the group and that the program can grow. More on Day 1 in Winslow.

Day 2: The first day began at dawn. Volunteers gathered at the edge of the lake just outside Winslow to greet the dawn just as the Navajo elders do. It is a quiet time. You can hear the beavers swimming in the lake. Often a heron will take flight. As the sun rises the group reflects on why they are there and takes in the spiritual nature of the dawn.

We then gathered at the Flying J and had a breakfast meeting at Denny's where we went over the "rules of the road" for the upcoming food run and talked about how we would load our vehicles with onions and potatoes at Wal Mart. Several of the more experienced volunteers were trying their best to avoid having the onions placed in their vehicles. More on Day 2 and the Evening Ceremony.

Day 3: We had our usual breakfast meeting at Flying J at 6:30am. It was crisp out at that point. As I drove to the restaurant, the pink of the sunrise was absolutely beautiful. We had our meeting, and were reminded to double-up so as to not have to drive empty trucks to this small food run. The Elders in the program numbered 27 grandmothers and 8 grandfathers. That was close to one volunteer per Elder! Of course when you add in the cute kids and family members, the shade house did get crowded. More on the Sanders Food Run and Day 3.

Day 4: Today was a big day for the volunteers. It is the largest food run of the three, serving 61 grandmothers and 26 grandfathers. And, of course there is a large number of family and visitors that show up since it is a very large gathering.

The drive was one of the high points of the day. We headed north off I-40 toward Second Mesa. It is a long drive with amazing expanses of scenic high desert and rock formations. Gone were the dust storms experienced in the Spring. In their place was a perfect sunny day full of peace and joy.

Everyone eagerly anticipated this food run. Big Mountain is where the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program started many years ago. Big Mountain is where the Elders resisted being relocated by the government during the Hopi land dispute. With Linda and Grace, program founders, in the lead, it was like a homecoming and we were all starting to feel like family with one heart, one mind and one direction to travel. More on the Big Mountain Food Run and Day 4.

Day 5: It's the last day of the three-part food run with the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program. Yesterday was amazing. The Elders, many of whom have visibly aged, were there in full force. Everyone showed up! I even purchased a beautiful rug to display on a wall in my hallway.

Today we actually slept in a bit. There was no morning meeting, but we did need to pack our cars and check out of the Lodge Motel in Winslow if we were to drive home after the Teesto food run. More on the Teesto Food Run and Our Sad Farewell.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Youthful Food Run

by John Aldrich

The group of volunteers that come together for each food run give each event a unique character. On the recent food run to Oljato and Navajo Mountain a share of this flavor was provided by some unusually youthful participants.

At Olajto we were honored to be joined by Carley Nez, our Shi Yazhi Princess. Carley's family comes from the Montezuma Creek area of the reservation. She and her father traveled there and then came to Oljato joined by Carley's grandmother.

Here is Carley with her father and grandmother, a retired school teacher. Carley has been doing a beautiful job this year representing ANE at a variety of events such as pow wows.

Carley is joined at the door by volunteer Glenda Carson and by Stryder Underwood of Alfred, New York. At age nine Stryder is the youngest volunteer to ever participate in a food run. She brought her grandfather, John del Campo, with her. John has been volunteering on food runs since the early years of the Program and has brought all of his family at various times over the years.

As part of the greeting committee, Stryder welcomes Gladys Oliver to the food run.

The youngest member of the volunteer group, although perhaps not quite a full-fledged worker yet, was eighteen-month old Samantha Carey. This might have been a deja-vu experience for her as she had actually been to Oljato once before while in the womb. Brenda was Linda's assistant until Samantha arrived.

As part of the Program giveaways at each food run all the children in attendance receive a gift. Carley and Stryder have just passed these out to the youngest members of the Elders' families.

And here Carley presents a gift to Alice Featherhat, a spry Elder of 104.

Samantha wonders if she should be here.

The following day at Navajo Mountain Samantha is introduced to the Elders along with her parents, Brenda and Pete.

Morris Burns presents Stryder with a specail gift.

Samantha meets Jerry Smallcanyon, newly adopted by the Carey family.

The Navajo people have an unusually strong sense of family, and they love children. The Elders brighten immediately when they see a youngster. The presence of Carley, Stryder, and Samantha brought many smiles to their faces.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Announcing The ANE Limited Edition Pendleton Blanket

Early this year a unique opportunity presented itself to the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program. Doug and Margie Hollinger own the Park City Clothing Company which happens to be one of the top retailers of Pendleton blankets in the country. Doug is also a member of the ANE board and has actively supported the Elders over the years.

Doug and Margie proposed a special fund-raising project involving a custom designed, limited-edition, blanket to be produced by Pendleton with all of the proceeds going to the Program. Such an undertaking wouldn't have been possible without their longstanding relationship with Pendleton.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The blanket is a horizontal design with a jacquard border in the standard Pendleton 64"x80" size. The background color is a deep turquoise with the ANE logo and the names of the eleven food run locations in winter white. The border has light turquoise, rust, and tan accents in a Navajo pattern.

This blanket will be produced as a limited collector's edition of only 300. It will be available at the rug show in November or through the Park City Clothing Company (800-561-9665). It will sell for $245 with ANE receiving 100% of the profits.

 We anticipate that this special blanket will sell out quickly. If you would like to reserve one or more, you may do so by contacting the Park City Clothing Company. With a $100 deposit each, a blanket will be reserved for you to pick up (or have shipped for around $15) after Sunday November 14th. It will not be possible to reserve a specific numbered blanket, as they will be pulled randomly from the stock.

Pendletons are treasured by Native people who use the blankets in honorings and ceremonies This beautiful blanket honors the Elders and their way of life, the support people who share the vision of serving the Elders, and our coming together to promote healing between our cultures.

The blanket would make a meaningful keepsake of your participation in the Program or a wonderful holiday gift for a longtime support person. You might also consider buying the Pendleton to be gifted to your Elder.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Land Is Beautiful

by John Aldrich

The food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain are recently completed. Normally this blog would focus on the events of the journey, but for now I would like to reflect on the beauty of the Land we passed through. Oljato and Navajo Mountain are in some of the most beautiful parts of the reservation. Although each has a distinctly different character, there's no denying that these two areas have a corner on beauty. The Navajo people revere the Land, and on this food run it was very easy to see why.

Summer rains are common throughout Arizona and Utah. Monsoonal moisture wells up from the south producing sometimes prodigious thunderstorms, the male rain of Navajo lore. In the weeks prior to the recent food runs there had been considerable precipitation which laid the groundwork for the proliferation of plants and flowers that we witnessed. We actually had fair and sunny weather during our time on the Land, but the seeds were there and had been stimulated in the days preceding our arrival.

The first two photos were not taken on the Land but rather between Moab and Monticello, a route that most volunteers traveling from northern Utah would utilize. The yellow sunflowers seen here were evident everywhere during our travels.

At this time of the year the range would most often be turning brown from the relentless summer sun.

Later along the road to Navajo Mountain there was a profusion of other wildflowers.

This view looks north towards the mountain. To the right of the highway a scar is evident. This is the new water pipeline which should be completed in a year and will bring a reliable supply to a community which has been at the mercy of a very unreliable water source.

The disturbed areas along the sides of the highway were fertile ground for an astounding display of flowers.

Here are paintbrush of intense red set against a mass of white primrose.

And here are gaillardia against a background of yellow. Although we have this plant in our garden, it was the first I had seen it in the wild.

These weren't isolated patches of flowers. The display went on continuously for miles and included other plants not pictured.

Our time with the Elders was the primary reward of this journey, but these roadside displays certainly added greatly to the overall experience.