Friday, April 5, 2013

Food Run Report - Navajo Mountain 3/28/13

by John Aldrich

Returning to Navajo Mountain is always a special treat. The beauty of the place and warmth of the people make this a unique food run. My personal theory is that after years of isolation resulting from remoteness and lack of a paved road, the residents opened up to us when we started our food runs there in 2008 after the road was finally paved. Whatever the reason, we feel very welcome when we arrive.

Our journey starts at the Wetherill Inn in Kayenta,

and we leave early since the drive takes nearly two hours. We grab a quick motel-style breakfast, preferably with a minimal amount of coffee (there's no stopping once we're on the road), and are off before 8:00 a.m.

In the caravan were Bob and Dar Stack in their Eurovan camper. When it was time to unload vehicles after our arrival, the van yielded an astounding number of boxes. Melyssa Holbrook, on the left, helped Dar unload.

Nancy Greenwood is a regular volunteer on the Navajo Mountain food run, and this gives her a chance to see her Elder, Nancy Greymountain.

Wendy Sanborn and her group of volunteers always create a beautiful presentation for the ANE program giveaways.

There is quite a variety of items represented here, and it represents the culmination of hours of volunteer effort back at the warehouse. In her remarks, Wendy always pays tribute to those who serve the food runs in this way but are unable to be present on the Land.

When the Elders come to the food runs they wear their best, and when it comes to jewelry, many have gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, and belts. Here is Kee Yazzie Clitso's finery.

When they see this jewelry, some people think that the wearers must be well-off. But for many Navajos, their jewelry represents a significant part of their "net worth". The silver and turquoise have special meaning to these people, and it's not worn simply to show off.

One of the "games" we play at the food runs honors the oldest Elders. Someone gets to wear the infamous birthday hat and lead us in a round of "Happy Birthday". Then Linda starts down through the years and when someone's age matches a particular number, they get a box of Cracker Jacks. Edna Atene Fuller responded to being 96 years old.

When it's time for Elders to present their giveaways to us, there is always a great outpouring at Navajo Mountain. Some gifts are made to the Program and some donated for the Elders' sponsors. In this case Alice Billie gave her sponsor, Gale Reeves, a beautiful necklace and matching earrings.

Morris Burns had necklaces to give to the assembled volunteers.

At the conclusion of the Elders' giveaways, Fay Sombero rose to express her gratitude to those who had made the journey to help the people of Navajo Mountain as well as her thanks for the Program itself.

Then it was time for the Program and the volunteers to present their giveaways to the Elders. Dru Dury is ready to pass out "trash" bags to each Elder in the Program. We always kid Linda that it would be more appropriate to call them "gift" bags.

One of the more colorful giveaways is the fabric that we present to the women at each food run. Here Beaulah Clitso chooses her color. This fabric represents many hours of work at the warehouse before it is finally given away to the Elders for use in making skirts and blouses.

During the giveaways, this handshake illustrates what is transpiring, people of very different backgrounds have come together with a feeling of gratitude and respect for each other.

During a quiet moment between the giveaways and the meal, Linda spends some time with Helen Smallcanyon explaining what each of her giveaways is. Helen is impaired in both vision and cognition, so this shows the love and thoughtfulness Linda has for these people.

It was a pleasant surprise to see members of the Blake family at the food run. The Blakes are from Navajo Mountain but were living in Salt Lake last year when they began volunteering at the warehouse. They moved back last fall, so we hadn't seem them since last summer. Tasheena poses here with Linda.

After everyone is fed and all the Elders' vehicles are loaded we have a closing circle before heading out on our separate ways home. As Linda is fond of pointing out, each circle is unique and no two will ever be the same. But for three days we were all part of the same family.

Because Navajo Mountain is such a uniquely beautiful place, I like to close with something that illustrates this. During the food run Ella Yazzie (another native of Navajo Mountain who lived in Salt Lake and volunteered at the warehouse for a time), offered to take us on a short outing to Lost Mesa nearby.

With Navajo Mountain as a backdrop, this mesa top was covered with extensive walls. In the foreground is a prehistoric kiva. The other walls are of cruder construction, and I'm guessing are more recent. Perhaps they were built during the Long Walk era of the 1860's when many Navajos fled to the Navajo Mountain area when trying to escape Kit Carson's roundup.

We look forward to our return to Navajo Mountain in August.

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