Friday, April 22, 2011

Amasani Program Activities - Spring 2011

by April Wilsey
(Note: April is the coordinator for the Classroom Amasani Program the purpose of which is to facilitate the adoption of Navajo Elders by school classrooms and facilitate cultural exchange between the two.)

The Classroom Amasani Program connects teachers and their students with Navajo Elders and their families.  It is our intention that both groups will be able to share their cultures and learn from each other.

When teachers decide to adopt an Elder for their classroom, a packet is sent to them including photo and bio of their Elder and other pictures showing the hogans and life on the reservation.   Also included are a AAA map of the southwestern Indian country that includes the Navajo Reservation, information about their culture, and two CD’s with about 23 issues of the Amasani Bahane Newsletter.  Each issue contains an article about Navajo life written by a Navajo.  There are lesson plans that go with Navajo stories, mapping activities and much more that can be taught to the class.

  Rodger Williams and April Wilsey have done four presentations at elementary schools beginning in February through April 1.  They have taken rugs made by Navajo children, turquoise jewelry, a ceremonial basket, and video of the Adopt-A-Native Elder Program to share with the students.  Recently Rodger added a Navajo Code Talker doll and information explaining how these very brave and patriotic Navajo soldiers created a code within a code to help win the war in Japan during WWII.  Rodger also takes his drum and sings Navajo songs and teaches them how to count to 10.

The Classroom Amasani presentatons are for any schools signed up in the program and live within a 45 minute drive from Park City.

For more information about this program you can read last year's blog about Amasani, or visit the Amasani page of our web site.  There is some free information you can download and print for your own use.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Outpouring of Giving

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Walk In Beauty - Spring 2011

by Cindy Cook and Ray Coleman

It was a beautiful April day – just perfect for a drive to the reservation.  As we prepared for our spring delivery of Walk In Beauty shoes, we smudged ourselves and the truck with sage and asked to be blessed with safe travels.

For a couple of weeks we had been collecting the shoes our volunteer buyers had purchased.  Each pair had been selected and tagged for a specific child.  The orders were re-checked and now the back of the truck was filled with 28 big blue IKEA bags overflowing with new shoes.

The sight of us visiting schools with bags full of shoes reminded at least one young child of Christmas.  A 2nd grade boy from Pinon Elementary exclaimed, “Thank you Santa!” as he ran out of the room with his new shoes. 
A small inventory of shoes that had built up was also loaded in the truck.  This allowed us to meet emergency needs for 11 children who had transferred in to various schools after those schools had submitted their shoe orders.

We can’t begin to fully express our gratitude to those who support this program.  The generosity of those who donate to Walk In Beauty permitted us to deliver over 300 pairs of shoes to children in need at our participating schools.  In addition, funds were sufficient to add two more schools.

Stopping at Tsaile Public School to assess their interest in Walk In Beauty, we were surprised to find everyone outside.  A fire alarm had gone off requiring a complete evacuation.  They were waiting for engineers from Chinle to arrive to verify it was safe to reenter the building.  We found the school’s Parent Coordinator, Josephine Yellow, in the parking lot where we told her about Walk In Beauty and signed Tsaile up to receive shoes in the fall.  Chinle Boarding School will also be added to the fall delivery.

An objective of Walk In Beauty is to service school-aged children in areas of the reservation where ANE has food runs.  Meeting this objective can be challenging as it requires us to criss-cross the entire reservation to make deliveries – which we try to accomplish in a one week period.

Further complicating the delivery process are weather and road conditions.  Springtime often brings unsettled weather.  Such was the case during this trip.  We experienced wind and sand storms and a bit of snow.
In addition to delivering shoes, donations allow us to provide socks.  While trying shoes on the children, some are embarrassed at the condition of their socks and ask us not to look.  Others are uncomfortable because they have no socks to wear.  It is heartening to tell them not to worry as we pull out a fresh pair of new socks to put on their feet.

We are grateful to those who volunteer their time to purchase and prepare the shoes.  We may begin calling them our Hunting and Gathering team as they hunt from store to store for the correct sizes and colors of shoes at the best prices.  They then gather them all together and spend a considerable amount of time cutting off tags, removing stuffing materials, lacing them up and tagging them.  Our thanks to Janet Dalton, Anna Law, Jessie Bigelow, Jackie Boyd, Isabelle Kalantzes and Summer Campbell-Kelsch for purchasing shoes for the spring delivery.

Expressions of gratitude for the program are received in numerous ways.  We saw it in the broad smiles of the children.
The basketball coach and Special Education teacher at Little Singer gave us t-shirts.  One was their prized 2011 basketball championship t-shirt.  This tiny school had taken the district championship for varsity and junior varsity for both boys and girls teams.
Kindergarten children from Sanders Elementary squealed with delight when their teacher said, “Remember when we measured you for shoes?  Well, your shoes are here.” 
At Canyon de Chelly Elementary we were greeted with a huge Welcome sign made by some of the students.
Other children express their feelings in thank-you notes.  A 4th grade boy attending Little Singer wrote, “Thank you for buying me new shoes.  I will wear them to school.  I hope they don’t cost too much.  Again, thank you.” 
At Kayenta, a 2nd grade boy had the most pleased look on his face as he said, “These are awesome.  My feet feel soooooo good.”  My Mom wanted me to have new shoes.  She’s going to be so surprised.”
What a blessing it is to be part of a program that puts shoes on the feet of our Elders' future.

Questions about Walk In Beauty?  E-mail us at

For more photos of the spring delivery visit our Picasa photo album.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rainbow Food Box Packing 4/9/11

by John Aldrich

Following the arrival of the food, the next big step in preparing for the food runs is packing the Rainbow Boxes. Boxes for Oljato and Navajo Mountain are packed earlier, but the remaining food for the other nine runs is boxed on two successive Saturdays. The first of these took place April 9th.

It takes a large crew to accomplish this job. That day we boxed 250 sets (500 boxes). In recent years we have been fortunate to have the Alta High School Soccer Team volunteer on one of the two Saturdays, so they were there that day contributing over 30 strapping young men to our workforce. Here's a photo of the team along with their coach.

Here's a view of the activity in the warehouse looking from the north end.

Regular volunteers Jerry and Louise Sedlevicius pass by Sheri Lund who was handing out the last items to be placed in the boxes.

Jan Snyder has taken Alta High student Alex under her wing to pack boxes.

A video production team is seen here interviewing Linda. They will be producing a video about the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program which should be airing later in the summer or fall on KBYU TV.

This view, from the south end of the warehouse, shows the circle of "shoppers" with their carts and boxes who move around the well-organized perimeter from which each box is filled in sequence with the prescribed food items.

Beverly Benally offers refreshments to passing shoppers.

As the boxes progress around the circle the last stop is for the labels. Sandy Sanders distributes these critical items that assure that each set of boxes will delivered to the intended Elders.

Another active place in the warehouse is the table where the assembled boxes are taped. Sarah Sifers makes it look easy through her years of experience.

Although by the time the following picture was taken some of the regular volunteers had departed, the remaining veterans posed for this shot.

The following is a two minute video of the action in the warehouse. The video production crew is seen at work as well as the energetic high school students.

If you click on "YouTube" at the lower right you can watch the video at a somewhat higher resolution on the YouTube site.

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.