Monday, April 1, 2013

Food Run Report - Oljato 3/27/13

by John Aldrich

Our first food runs of the year took place last week with our visits to Oljato and Navajo Mountain. Oljato is often a windy place, and with lots of sand to blow about, it can sometimes be a challenge to be outdoors there. Last year, though, we had perfect weather, and the same held true this year. Let's hope this is a trend that will continue.

The day prior to the food run we met at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat in the late afternoon. It's a happy time of rejoining old friends and meeting new ones.

The temperature was ideal, and it was a pleasure to once more be in this setting overlooking the San Juan River.

Following a brief orientation, we had our food run ceremony. The theme for the spring season is the Eagle and each participant had a chance to share something about this majestic bird that holds so much significance to Native Americans.

Also at the ceremony Linda continued the recent tradition of honoring special volunteers with the gift of an ANE Pendleton blanket. Julie and Jeff Williams who have been an important part of the Program for 23 years were recipients of this honor.

Sheila McKinney and Dick Aldrich were also honored.

The following morning, food run day, we gathered again on the patio of the motel for specific instructions about the upcoming event. This is our eleventh year of taking food and giveaways to the Elders at Oljato.

There was a chill in the air at this point, but it warmed up rapidly to a most pleasant 70 degrees later in the morning.

There isn't enough room in the parking lot of the motel to line up our vehicles for smudging, so we drive a short distance toward Monument Valley and pull over along the roadside to accomplish this ritual.

Then, it's on to the Oljato Senior Center where we pause for a group photo before going about setting up for the food run.

There were 31 volunteers, most of whom were veterans of prior food runs. But we were pleased to have two couples from the Salt Lake area and a couple from the Netherlands as our new volunteers. Overall this was a most congenial group, and it was a pleasure to work together. There were more than enough hands to accomplish the necessary tasks, so no one felt over burdened.

The official "greeters" at the door were Fientje Allis, Virginia Aldrich, and Tineke Pols. Tineke, a cousin of Fientje's, came with her husband, Piet, from Holland.

The outside work of setting up the Rainbow Circle of food boxes and giveaways was carried out efficiently by an ample amount of male muscle power. Since the boxes are heavy, about 35 pounds apiece, it's nice to have plenty of help.

When the formal portion of the food run program got underway, Linda honored our local coordinator, Bessie Holiday, who has helped us at Oljato since our first visit there in April of 2003.

Watching intently were several of the Elders.

The Elders are always impressed when people travel from abroad to visit them. During the volunteer introductions, Piet and Tineke received a very warm welcome.

The food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain are the only locations we visit that are in the Utah portion of the Navajo Reservation. We receive generous support from American Express for these two runs. Each of the female Elders received a gift box containing fabric and other useful household items.

When it was time for giveaways from the Elders, Ruth Holiday honored new volunteers Tiffiny Gregory and Melyssa Holbrook with necklaces.

Most of the food and giveaways we take to the reservation represents direct support, things they can use immediately in their daily lives. But another important giveaway is yarn. Navajo weavers have traditionally supported their families through the output of their looms. We try to keep this tradition alive.

Bessie Black chooses from among the variety of color schemes that are offered to all of the weavers.

When all the giveaways are complete, both from the Program and individual volunteers, each Elder has quite a collection of items. Tom Atene sits here with his portion.

For the meal at Oljato we had Navajo tacos. Edith Tahe usually supervises the food preparation and typically has several people helping her. This time she only had the help of one other person. She was embarrassed with this piece of dough for fry bread because of the hole.

Nancy Greenwood and Sheila McKinney each received a rug from Betty Blackwater. Sheila is Betty's sponsor.

When the meal is over, we start loading the Elders' vehicles. This overview shows the Senior Center with volunteers carrying boxes to one of the trucks.

John Holiday is one of the older Elders at Oljato and is quite well known as a medicine man and person of local importance. Wendy bids him farewell as the food run comes to a conclusion.

We then had the remainder of the afternoon to do as we pleased before finding our way to Kayenta where we spend the night before moving on to Navajo Mountain.


  1. Wonderful and worthwhile work....nice to see Tine(nee Kuitert) and Fien(nee van Rossum) after so many years...kind regards,
    Another cousin

    1. hallo vreemdeling. wij weten niet wie je bent. laat even . vanaf 3 mei weer in Nederland.