Sunday, March 24, 2013

Forest Lake

by John Aldrich

Most readers of this blog won't recognize the name Forest Lake, even though one of our food runs is held there. That's because we call it the Pinon food run. Pinon is the nearest town of any size but is over 40 miles distant. The food run here is part of the sequence based out of Chinle which also includes Many Farms and Tsaile.

The idea of writing about this food run location occurred today when I came upon an article by Cindy Yurth in the Navajo Times. The Times is in the midst of a project to write a feature about each of the 110 chapters on the Navajo Reservation in alphabetical order and just arrived at number 27, Forest Lake.

The article is fascinating but also touches home because the story presented, and the people involved, are also a part of our ANE family. Forest Lake is a very small chapter which seems to make the connection closer.

When we travel to Forest Lake for the food run, we leave from Chinle and drive through beautiful and varied countryside for nearly two hours. The final portion of the drive, heading north out of Pinon, traverses rising terrain on the flank of Black Mesa.

The Benale family has hosted this run from its inception. They live on the edge of the Hopi partition line and very near the coal mining operations on Black Mesa. These two factors have greatly affected the people who live in this area and are part of the focus of Cindy's article.

The Benale's are fine weavers, as are many others who live in the area and attend our food run. In 2006 we chose The Weaving Of Life as our rug show theme and wanted to feature a picture of a multi-generational family of weavers. Thus we headed to Forest Lake where this family photo was taken that was used for the rug show poster.

Also from that day in March of 2006 comes this photo of the family in front of their corral:

The matriarchs of our host family are Carol Blackhorse, sitting directly below the rug, and Jane Benale, immediately to her right. There are four generations pictured here and all are weavers. The Benale family are regulars at the rug show, so most of these faces will be familiar to people who have been to the show.

This is one of our smaller food runs. It is also a completely outdoor, open-air event. These two factors seem to contribute to it being one of our more popular food runs. We've seen every kind of weather here from blazing hot sun to snow storms. The Elders along with the rest us take it all in stride.

This photo provides an overview of the food run:

Although there appear to be a lot of people in the picture, there are probably more volunteers than Elders.

The Times article discusses the resistance of the local people to the intrusions of coal mining into their lives. Prominently featured is Maxine Kescoli who is one of our Elders:

Maxine is making a donation of this rug to the Program. Many Elders here are weavers and make similar donations at each of the food runs.

The article also mentions Malcolm Benally,

who has written a book, Bitter Water, about the struggles of his people during the relocation era.

Another person given prominent mention in the article is Ella Benally:

Ella serves as our food run coordinator at this location and was caught here in a lighthearted moment at the last rug show.

The final picture, taken at the Benale homeland, reminds us of the traditional values of these people who have been caught in the cross currents of modern issues that weren't of their making.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Amasani Report - March 2013

by C.J. Robb

The month of March has been a busy one for the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program.  In addition to gearing up for the spring food runs, we have also been visiting schools in the Salt Lake Valley, teaching Navajo culture and customs as part of the Amasani program.  On the first of the month we visited the Montessori Community School and set up in their gym after school to visit with the kids and their parents.

The Montessori Community School has faithfully sponsored three Elders for more than eighteen years, and has made a real difference in their lives.

The Amasani Program was originally started to introduce traditional Navajo Culture to young children.  These children will be the last generation with the opportunity to interact with, and learn from these traditional Elders and their connection to mother earth.

Lupita Francis drove all the way to Salt Lake to teach corn grinding to the children.

Art Sleeper, Beverly Benally, Bobbi Coleman, and our Shiyazhi Princess teach the art of carding and weaving.  Art donates a rug to the rug show auction every year as part of a package that includes original pieces of art made by our gifted volunteers.

Carmen Nez, the mother of two Shiyazi Princesses taught the children how to tie a traditional hair bun.

Rodger Williams regularly takes time off work to sing traditional songs and tell traditional stories, just as he has done for his own children and grandchildren.

Carla Sydenham shows off some of ANE’s extensive collection of children’s rugs.  Many of these rugs were woven by children the same age or younger than the school children in attendance.  The Children’s rugs are for sale at the shows in order to allow the program to continue to support young weavers in hopes that this traditional art form will continue to be passed on.

On March Sixth we traveled to St. John the Baptist in Draper where volunteers Meredith and Tina worked with the kindergarten and first graders to collect food for the Elders.  They also packed and donated one hundred and eighty preschool bags that will be given to children on the upcoming spring food runs.

Here Linda shows the kindergarteners a traditional hogan, a style of dwelling many of our Elders still call home.

After a weaving demonstration by Beverly Benally, the kids are invited to test their knowledge by weaving yarn through their fingers.

Shirlee Silversmith brought her traditional grinding stone and cradle board to show to the kids.  Shirlee gave a beautiful explanation about the importance of corn to the Navajo people and brought the kids up to try their hand at corn grinding.

Here Beverly shows the kindergarten girls how to tie their hair into a bun just like the Navajo Grandmas.

 The Amasani program is a wonderful and truly meaningful part of ANE, and like everything we do, could not happen without dedicated volunteers.  Thank you to Lupita Francis, Carmen Nez, Rodger Williams, Bobbi Coleman, Beverly Benally, Andrea Berman, Cindy Cook, Carla and Stan Sydenham, Art and Sandy Sleeper, Shirley Silversmith, Masuda Medcalf, C.J. Robb and everyone else who makes what we do possible.

And a special thank you….

To the 4th graders at Upland Terrace who collect food for the food runs every year, here are some of their smiling representatives who got to deliver it all to the warehouse just in time for food packing!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Food Box Packing - Week 2

by John Aldrich

Last week's post reviewed a little history behind the Rainbow Food Boxes. So this will be a shorter blog touching on some highlights of yesterday's activity.

The huge stack of empty boxes in the center of the warehouse has been disappearing and is being replaced by the filled boxes. As usual the volunteers filling boxes made their way around the periphery.

This week we were happy to welcome the Alta High School soccer team. They have been coming to help during our spring packing for a number of years now. Under the watchful eye of Coach, these young men provided a lot of able manpower.

We had enough volunteers yesterday that some of the resources could be devoted to another big job. Kate Maxwell-Stephens organizes the home care products every year. Many of our Elders have special needs that we try to help with, and sorting and packing these items for delivery during the food runs requires a great deal of work. Some of the soccer team members helped Kate out in the parking lot while others were working on the food boxes inside.

This young man served as the Human Trash Compactor. One can only imagine the fear he must trigger in opposing soccer players with this special skill.

Other highlights included Lamar Clark who returned to help at the taping table:

And, at the Jello table, Kade had assistance this week from Zoe and Aaron.

The packing operation paused briefly to help honor several people who were having birthdays this month, and then everyone could enjoy a piece of cake as they came by the taping table.

We have now nearly completed all the preparations to begin the spring food runs which will commence on 3/26 with our visits to Oljato and Navajo Mountain. Many thanks to the large number of volunteers who have brought us to this point.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Packing Rainbow Food Boxes 3/9/13

by John Aldrich

Rainbow Food Boxes are at the core of what the Adopt-A- Native-Elder Program represents. When Linda Myers first had her vision for the Program it was to provide food to help sustain traditional Elders in their struggle to survive. Her initial "food runs" consisted of informal trips to the reservation with whatever food items and clothing she was able to afford or gather.

What an evolution has taken place since those early years. Now that we support over 500 Elders we have a warehouse and organize the food into sets of boxes containing food items that the Elders have told us they would like. Packing these boxes is the largest warehouse-related job that we have throughout the year. The call for volunteers was beautifully answered with a large turnout yesterday morning for the first of two box packing days.

If you look back through the blog category "Warehouse" you will see that the general structure of the packing process has remained quite consistent in recent years. Volunteers move around the periphery of the warehouse with shopping carts containing the boxes which they fill with the food items stacked in cases along the walls. When filled, the boxes arrive at the taping table where they are closed up, labeled and stacked by food run area.

At the taping tables we have a very consistent group of volunteers who have become "specialists" in this task. Filling this important role again were Boyd Mitchell, Sarah Sifers, Ray Coleman and Dan Willis.

At the conclusion of taping, boxes are stacked by food run. The boxes in the background with the yellow labels will be delivered at the Big Mountain food run, the largest event among our eleven destinations.

Another "specialist" among the volunteers is young Kade. On recent food packing days, he has made sure that the food boxes all get the proper amount of Jello.

Two other young people helping distribute food items to the "shoppers" were grandchildren of Bob Stack.

Dayle Laughlin came to help after flying in from Philidelphia (but not just for this event).

One of the least glamorous but still important jobs is breaking down the delivery boxes so that they can be recycled.

At each food packing event there are usually volunteers who are part of a special group, and we had two of these yesterday. Kate Maxwell-Stephens, who is currently teaching five classes at the Salt Lake Community College, brought eleven volunteers from her various classes.

And we were honored to have a fine young man, Joshua Gregory, who was completing his Eagle Scout project on behalf of ANE.

Josh has been working on his project since the first of the year. He's fourteen and a member of Troop 425. He organized a fundraiser which netted almost $1000 which he then donated to ANE to help with the purchase of the food for the spring runs. He came yesterday with a number of his fellow scouts and leaders.

Also joining him were his biggest supporters, his mother and sister.

If you missed yesterday's event please try to join us next Satuday, March 16th, at 8:00 a.m. when we will pack the remainder of the Rainbow Boxes for the spring food runs.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rug Of The Week - Tree Of Life by Eleanor Towne

by John Aldrich

There are signs of change here in Utah suggesting that spring might actually come after all. And what is more closely associated with spring than birds and flowers. That makes this week's rug a perfect choice for those feeling the up-swelling of optimism that comes with this change of seasons.

Tree Of Life rugs always seem happy, but this one is even more so due to the inclusion of flowers in addition to the traditional birds.

Eleanor Towne is a younger weaver and connected to ANE by virtue of her father-in-law, Howard Towne, who participates in the Many Farms food run. She specializes in this particular pattern and has added several distinctive touches. One of these is the inclusion of flowers. She also has limited her background colors to green, black and white.

Eleanor has been weaving since she was nine years old and sold her first rug when she was eleven for $9. She recalls that the sale provided her with the means to purchase candy for a whole month.

Eleanor is typical of many weavers on the reservation in that this is the primary means of support for her family. Her back was injured in a car accident some years ago so she can only weave when she is feeling well enough. So she must make the most of her good days to support herself and her husband who is disabled due to blindness.

If you would like to bring some spring cheer to your house, our rug this week is number 7171 in the catalog. It measures 18" x 28" and is priced at $350.

To see more rugs, new and old, visit the Rug Catalog.

See this 2010 post for more information about the rug catalog.

Notes: Every effort has been made to photograph and present the rugs with as accurate rendition of color as possible. It's not possible, however, to be certain that your computer won't show some variance. Where two prices are listed in the catalog, the higher represents what the weaver hopes to receive and the lower, the minimum she will accept. As has always been the case at ANE all the proceeds of every rug sale go entirely to the weaver. Prices are set by the weaver, and since there is no "middleman" they are typically very reasonable.

And to see more of what's happening at ANE visit us on Facebook.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Help Needed For Food Box Packing

by John Aldrich

Twice a year we have the big task of packing all the Rainbow Food Boxes to take to the reservation for the food runs. It's a job that requires lots of volunteers and takes place over two consecutive Saturdays. In past springs it has happened in early April, but this year we've moved it up to early March.

The boxes were all assembled last Saturday to be ready for the big day. Box assembly is usually spread out more, so this is the largest collection of assembled boxes we've ever had in the warehouse.

The dates are March 9th and March 16th. We start at 8:00 a.m. and will be done by noon.

Please mark your calendars and join us if you can.