Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quest of Giving

by Joan Trabucco

(Note: Close friends Joan Trabucco and Valorie Marshall attended their first food run in August of 2009 at Oljato and Navajo Mountain. Click here to read Valorie's account of their experience.) 

I found ANE through Cowboys and Indians magazine. I am part native American and thought this would be a wonderful way to give to the Native people as a whole. I was soon sent an Elder to adopt along with her profile. Her name is Zettie Smith, and she is beautiful. She lives in the Oljato area. I decided then that I wanted to help at a food run to make sure that my hard-earned money was being used properly, and meeting Zettie would be a bonus. I talked my good friend Valorie into going with me as my co-pilot. We spent over a year planning for this trip.

Our job was to bring onions for the food run - - - 300 pounds of onions from California. The day I left my home I smudged myself and my truck, said a prayer, and headed off to pick up Valorie and the onions. They were nine hours away. After spending the night at Valorie's house,  we double checked our possible routes and then headed to the backyard to bless ourselves with the cornmeal we had received from the Program. After smudging the truck and saying a prayer, we were off. We allowed three days to get to the food run which was good because we probably spent a day getting lost and taking wrong turns. I had arranged for a personal tour with a Navajo guide at Canyon del Muerto as a special treat for Valorie. He and his father sang a special song for us at the end of the tour. We both cried. Each night we wrote in our journals about the day's adventures and the emotions that went with it.

The big day came for our first meeting with the group. Valorie and I discussed how we hoped that everyone was there in the "right spirit" as we both have been disappointed with people that just want to stand up and boast about themselves saying, "See what I did for these poor people! I'm so wonderful". We were so elated to find that EVERYONE was wonderful and were there for the right reasons. We came to love everyone we worked with. They will be a part of our hearts and memories forever. The next day we would go to Oljato to deliver Rainbow Food Boxes, onions, giveaways we brought from home, and the special box of items for Zettie.

Valorie and I were working at the Oljato Senior Center when  Linda approached and said, "Your Elder, Zettie, is here". I instantly lost all train of thought and use of normal speech. "Where?", I said. Linda smiled and pointed at Zettie sitting at a table at the back of the room. One of the Navajo helpers went with me to interpret. Tears started to come down my cheeks along with emotions I didn't expect. As  I approached her, she held out her hands and clasped mine tightly in hers. The emotions just overwhelmed me. I instantly fell in love with her, a complete stranger I'd never met before. The connection we felt for each other was spoken through our clasped hands.
Everything was spoken through those clasped  hands, I couldn't speak. I'd forgotten everything I wanted to say. I  looked up and said to my interpreter, "What do I say?".  She said, "Why don't you ask a question".  I couldn't think of any so we just sat holding hands and looking at each other. Here eyes were gentle, caring, and compassionate. Later on I received a beautiful picture of our clasped hands. It is now framed and hanging by my kitchen window.

The day's activities continued on, and I had to laugh when one of the lady Elders slapped Valorie on the butt because she wanted to make sure she was getting her share of giveaways. It was wonderful to hear the Navajo language spoken; it takes a long time to say something in Navajo. I saw the quiet smiles and small nods of thanks as each Elder received their items. I watched as the Elders found their boxes and guarded them possessively, their gifts of love. But they had no idea that the gift they gave to me was greater than anything I could give to them. My heart, soul, and physical being were filled with things I can't explain. This "Quest of Giving" I had started on had now become the "Quest of Receiving".

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weaving World Peace - Rug Show Theme For 2010

by John Aldrich

Each rug show has its own theme, and each theme embodies the spirit of that show. For this years show, to be held November 12-14, the theme is Weaving World Peace.

The idea for this theme arose during the 2009 show. During recent rug shows an event has been held on Saturday afternoons called the Native American Idol Contest which is based loosely on the American Idol model. The Elders love to sing, and the idea here was to present them with a theme and let them improvise a song after being given a few minutes to prepare. In this case the theme was  What I Want Santa to Bring Me For Christmas.

Elsie Benale, a fine weaver from Forest Lake, sang about her wish for  World Peace. This started Linda thinking that this might be a good theme for the next rug show, and she presented the idea to all the Elders the following day. It was well-received, and the weavers were encouraged to create rugs based on this theme. Smaller rugs would be submitted to be used for rug show advertising and promotion and larger rugs could be presented later to be sold at the show.

World Peace seems like a very lofty goal for our organization, but it fits very well with the Program mission as well as with the tenets of Navajo culture and philosophy. The Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program is truly an international organization. We have supporters and donors from around the world and sponsors living in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. A volunteer has come to the rug show from Holland for the past two years.

Rodger Williams points out that traditional Navajo prayers end with the phrase Hozhó Nahasdlii' being repeated four times. This is a plea for restoration of harmony and balance which can be interpreted at a personal level or at a more general level for the larger good.

Rodger relates that if you ask Navajos what World Peace means to them, you will find that they respond to you from a spiritual perspective. To the Diné (Navajo) peace is synonymous with the word K'é. This is a Navajo word which means relations and relatives or it could mean a peaceful state among all living beings. Thus we are reminded that we are all connected to one another through the Brotherhood of Man.

Here is a drawing created by Rodger as an illustration of this year's theme. Superimposed on an image of the world are elements contained in the Program logo. Hands from different cultures are seen coming together under a rainbow and sacred eagle feather. Differences are mended. World Peace is fostered.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Stories Event At The Warehouse

In the previous blog Rodger Williams describes the significance of story telling in Navajo culture. It turns out that you won't need to travel to the reservation to experience this aspect of Navajo life. For the past few years Rodger has organized an event at the ANE warehouse which highlights story telling, singing, and other facets of Diné culture. It has become an increasingly popular event and is open to everyone.

This year's event will take place on Sunday evening, January 31st, at 5:00 p.m. The warehouse is located at 328 W. Gregson Ave. in Salt Lake City. This map will help pinpoint the location if you need directions.

Rodger is the organizer and emcee of the event.

Last year Julius Chavez demonstrated the sacred art of sandpainting  to a rapt audience.

Lacee Harris tells stories of ma'ii (coyote).

Eileen Quintana speaks of what Navajo culture means to her.

A group of Eileen's students performs songs. Eileen works with children in the Nebo school district to raise their awareness of their cultural background.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Stories

by Rodger Williams

Storytelling is a favorite pastime among Navajos, and this activity takes place primarily during the winter months. Our stories have lessons in them as well as entertainment. They say it is the stories that keep us, take care of us, and it's the stories that will live as long as our people live. There are certain people among us who keep the stories for us, and we can go to them if we have a need to gain insight or if we need a blessing. These stories are like a mirror for us and also tell our history.

When some of the animals go to rest or hibernate for the winter months, then we can talk about them because they cannot hear us. But the coyote - - - we can talk about him anytime; he never goes anywhere and is always here; he never leaves us, and we can never get rid of him. We are told that Coyote Is Us! All our trickery, all our double-talk, all our mischievousness, and even our playfulness, reflect back to us through Coyote. In fact, our winter stories are all about the adventures of Coyote and all the other animals with whom he interacts.

The reptiles will go underground along with the ants and prairie dogs as well as many others who will be living in the "other world" for a time. They teach us about how to go within our deeper selves to seek deeper things in life. They teach us that this  world where they go exists along with ours and that we can travel there and back if we so desire.

The bear, for instance, represents the West cardinal direction or the place of the spiritual realms. The bear, the protector symbolically, is a powerful creature who does not back down from anyone.  You do not want to get between the mother bear and her cubs. Like him or her, when we go within ourselves to the space where our reservoir of spirit and the will to go on are located, we seek greater power and gain our strength. If we learn to use it we will then have the power of both worlds.

We can talk about the bear (while he is away), and he will not do anything to us from this "distance". They say when you are talking about the bear you might will him to come to you, which is not a good thing. We cannot abuse the spiritual energy of the bear. He or she is too powerful for the people. There are "things" that we are told to leave alone for our own good. It is like the west is a place to go "down" like the sun, and the east is a place for rising or returning. We can tell our stories about any of the creatures that are in that place of resting. It is out of respect for them that we do not mention them in our stories and in our trivial conversations at other times. These animals will be "asleep" until after the first thunder in the springtime.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Spring Food Run Dates Announced

Dates for the spring food runs have been announced and are as follows:

  • March 30-April 1: Oljato-Navajo Mountain
  • April 27-30: Dilkon-Leupp-Bird Springs
  • May 4-8: Many Farms-Tsaile-Pinon
  • May 9-13: Sanders-Big Mountain-Teesto

If you are interested in learning more about food runs you can visit the Food Run Page and the Volunteer Activities Page of our website.