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.

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