Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yarn Program

by John Aldrich

Although providing food is the most important thing the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program does to sustain our Elders, we help in a variety of other ways as well. The yarn program is one such way we support weavers in the Program and assist them in maintaining their traditional lifestyle.

Many of the Navajo Elders in our program are weavers, and many of these weavers depend on their weaving sales to sustain themselves and their families. We try to facilitate a market for as many of their rugs as possible. This happens through the annual rug show, other smaller shows, online rug sales, as well as direct sales to volunteers at food runs. But in addition to this we also provide wool and warp to our weavers so that they can continue to weave. We support more than seventy weavers on the reservation, and providing them yarn is an important way we help them to keep weaving.

A majority of present-day weavers use commercial yarn, and one of their favorites comes from the Brown Sheep Yarn Co. in Mitchell, Nebraska. Brown Sheep is willing to provide yarn to us at wholesale prices and we place two large orders with them each year prior to the food runs in the spring and fall. Each order involves over 1200 skeins of yarn in a variety of colors which are then combined into bundles of six skeins in a variety of color combinations. Each of these bundles provides enough wool to weave a rug approximately 2'x3' in size. These bundles are then given to weavers at each of the food runs.

We also order Brown Sheep wool throughout the year to replenish the stock of yarn bundles which are sold as donations to sponsors who wish to give wool directly to specific weavers. These bundles come in a variety of popular color combinations  which can be seen here on our web site.

At the annual rug show attendees can purchase bundles of wool and then present them directly to a weaver at the show. Much of this wool comes from the Burnham Trading Post in Sanders, Arizona, where Bruce Burnham carries a line of yarn which is also very popular with Navajo weavers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


by Roger Daly

Rainbow Food Box shopping...

Did you ever "run to the grocery store to pickup a couple of items?"

How about this shopping list?  
  • 528 large Folgers Coffee - Classic Roast
  • 1056 42 oz. oatmeal containers
  • 2112 cans of vienna sausages
  • 3468 large cans of fruit
  • 1584 family sized cans of soup
  • 1056 regular cans of pork & beans
  • 528 large vegetable shortening
  • 1056 (each) cans of corn, peas and carrots  

You will fill about 260 shopping carts.  Plan on about 30-40 minutes at the checkout counter and you will need a check for about $16,000.

To move the food to the ANE warehouse, rent a 45 foot Penske truck with a hydraulic tailgate.  Plan on two trips from the store to the warehouse.  Unloading the truck will require some strong backs to handle the nine (9+) tons of food.

Before returning the truck remember this "little shopping run" only filled one of the two Rainbow Boxes!

After your second shopping run you will have assembled almost twenty (20) tons of food items, at a cost of about $32,000.

Volunteers will pack the food into 528 Rainbow Box sets for delivery to eleven "Food Run" locations on the Navajo reservation.  At those locations ANE will add 20 lb. bags of Blue Bird flour plus potatoes and onions.  (Another volunteer will shop for these items.)

Back at the ANE warehouse we will begin planning for a "little run to the food store" in the fall! 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Better Roads - A Winter's Tale

by Mary Robertson-Begay

(Note: Mary is a resident of the Hardrock area of the reservation. She has been a key supporter of ANE for many years, and the Big Mountain food run is held at her family Homeland. Mary writes about a series of crippling snow storms that affected the reservation during  January 2010.)

My favorite time of the year is winter. I love the snow and enjoy watching it all fall softly to the ground. Well, I almost started to . . . almost got tired of it last month. January brought on snow, and more snow, and even some more. We were now up to three feet in some areas and higher in other areas. We had not seen this in Hardrock for a long time.

My husband, Harry, and I work at the Hardrock Chapter house. He is the Community Services Coordinator. (Talk to Harry and "Jack-of-all-trades" is redefined in your vocabulary). I rent an office space there for the Hardrock Council on Substance Abuse, Inc. - a tiny 501(c)(3) organization. For us, work is eight minutes away. We live about 1/2 mile off the pavement, so on most days it's smooth sailing.

We started to receive calls from community members on the second week of on/off again snow. Our Chapter President, Percy Deal, rounded us all up and declared an emergency in Hardrock, although that really did not mean anything because in order for us to receive aid from the county or state, the President of the Navajo Nation and Governor of Arizona need to declare an emergency. That did not come for several more days. In the meantime, the Chapter hired two citizens and their modified four-wheel trucks. Some staff members practically moved into their offices. These people began to operate a shelter without any food or sleeping areas. We had to go shopping for food for the shelter and obtained sleeping bags.

The two four-wheelers were on constant call to dig out people stranded on roads and pick some up from their homes that needed to get to a doctor right away. Patients were beginning to miss dialysis appointments because there was just no way for them to get to the hospitals. Many of the elders were running out of medication, food, and water. Not only was it the elderly, but also young families who were used to living on a weekly supply of food.

Finally we started to see help, first from the Hopi Resources Enforcement, and then the National Guard. I am sorry to say that the Navajo Nation did not step up until the very end, and that was only after begging and pleading with the Navajo Relocation Commission office in Window Rock. The National Guard brought their big trucks, and we were able to load up hay, food, and water for the people who lived the farthest away from the chapter. On a good dry day, an hour is how long it usually takes to go visiting. It took the National Guard, a big grader, and Harry as a guide, almost the whole day to reach the farthest home. The National Guard was able to help out for two only days  the first time. The second group came three days later and helped out for a day and a half.

In the meantime, we had to keep the fire going at home. We were constantly making snow piles to make way for our sheep and horses. The Chapter, where we bought hay, was low on their supplies because the vendors could not get the trailers in. Shoveling snow from our roofs was fun and scary if you've never done it. Our truck would sometimes freeze to the ground, and we would bring out hot water to defrost it before it would move again. The tire chains did not come off for weeks. Pretty soon the truck was parked at the pavement, and we would walk. The half mile felt more like five in our clunky snow boots and always carrying what we could from the store.

The psychologist who works with me explained that we are sun people and that only the sun would bring back our smiles and dampen our anxiety. Attitudes began to show at work, staff members became short tempered, and frustration flared. We cried because there was not any more we could do.

Community members became angry with us for no reason. The first Chapter meeting after all of this, the building was filled to capacity. We heard support from some of them, but others still felt we did not do enough.

Then I began to wonder - - - what happened to us? At what point in one's life does one start to think that someone else is responsible for them? My mother, rest her soul, taught us to be independent. Never look upon another person's table thinking that you should be fed, she would say. I remember her saying, "take care of the sheep, in turn, they will take care of you". I guess I was very fortunate to have someone who did not let me do things my way. All in all, would I do it again? Yeah, no doubt. We just need better roads. But then again I would not want thousands of unfamiliar people at my door asking for the way to the Grand Canyon, or the shortcut to - - - wherever.