Monday, May 23, 2016

Sarah and Norzin's Giveaway

by John Aldrich

As a dedicated participant with 20 years of service to the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program, Sarah Sifers has distinguished herself as one of our most senior and distinguished volunteers. She has been a devoted sponsor of her Elder, Jane Biakeddy, as well as a faithful participant in yearly food runs. Sarah's calm judgement and experience make her a highly valued member of every food run team in which she participates.

Sarah's Elder, Jane, is home-bound due to a stroke, and for years Sarah has made a special trip to Big Mountain to visit her in her home.

In addition to her dedication to ANE, Sarah has her own non-profit, Indigenous Lenses, which is devoted to helping Tibetan refugees in Nepal. Sarah travels annually in the fall to the Pokhara region of Nepal to help these people with whom she has become very close.

An earthquake in Nepal in the spring of 2015 led to a touching intersection of these two organizations to which Sarah is dedicated. Here is the story in Sarah's words:

In the spring of 2015, Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake.  So Grace Smith Yellowhammer, during the Sanders, Big Mountain and Teesto food run, asked me to take a bracelet that a Tibetan Rinpoche had given her to Nepal and to give it to an elder on that side of the world in the hopes that the prayers in the bracelet would bring peace and healing to a nation in recovery.  When I arrived in Nepal last fall, I made my way to the Tibetan refugee camp and gifted the bracelet to Norzin, an elder who has lived in exile from Tibet since 1959.  She is a weaver.  She sits on her front porch and weaves traditional two-sided incense bags...which they fill with ground juniper.  The juniper is then placed on burning embers as an offering to their deities.  In a wonderful synchronicity, and as a giveaway to honor my twentieth year of food runs, Norzin wove enough incense bags to gift each volunteer who participated in this year's Sanders, Big Mountain and Teesto food runs with one of those incense bags.

Those of us who were privileged to attend this spring's food run to Sanders, Big Mountain, and Teesto were blessed to receive one of these sashes.

As a gesture of solidarity with Norzin and her people, all of us wore our sashes at the time of the group picture which began our food run at Sanders.

Here is a closer view of one of the sashes as worn by Ella White Katoney, our coordinator at Sanders.

We express our deep appreciation to Sarah and Norzin for this gift and for the feeling that the world has thus become a smaller place in which to share a sense of community with others around the globe.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Packing Rainbow Food Boxes - 3/12/16

by John Aldrich

A sure sign of spring - and food runs just around the corner - are the two Saturday mornings we spend at the warehouse packing Rainbow Food Boxes. Yesterday was the first of these 2 days. It was a beautiful day and we had an outstanding turnout of volunteers to help with the work. It was gratifying to see many new faces along with those of seasoned veterans. Altogether there were about 70 people eager to help our Elders by packing the boxes that will be delivered during the spring food runs to the reservation.

The custom is to start the day with a brief circle outside for general orientation and a Navajo prayer.

Then we got right to work, with new volunteers pairing up with experienced people to load the boxes. As the teams move in a circle around the warehouse the sets of boxes for each Elder are filled with the prescribed food items. When we have an abundance of volunteers, as we did yesterday, some are assigned to handing out items to the "shoppers" to assure that the correct count ends up in each box.

After the boxes are filled, each set receives a pair of labels so that it will ultimately be delivered to a specific Elder. The labels are color-coded for each of our eleven food runs.

The boxes then go to the taping tables where they are taped shut and the labels affixed. The boxes for each food run are stacked together for efficient loading when the time comes for trucks and vehicles to be loaded for the food runs.

New volunteers are typically quite impressed with the level of organization involved in this whole process. The mastermind behind this logistical feat is our congenial ANE program assistant director, C.J. Robb.

On a side note, the award for volunteers in attendance who were furthest from home goes to two amiable and hard working young men from Nepal. They are attending Cottonwood High School here in Salt Lake, and it was a pleasure to have them join us.

 Here are some additional shots from yesterday's activity.

Next Saturday, March 19th at 8:00 a.m., we will converge on the warehouse once more to complete the process of packing the Rainbow Boxes. We would love to have you join us. The work is not strenuous and everyone has lots of fun.

See you then!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter Stories - 2016

by John Aldrich

The first big event on the ANE calendar every year is our Winter Stories night at the warehouse. Among traditional Navajo families, winter is the time to gather and tell stories and play games. Such times serve as one of the principal mechanisms by which the culture gets passed along to younger generations. In our urban environment it's harder for families to maintain this tradition. The many Navajo families who live along the Wasatch Front are mostly from younger generations, and their Elders, the source of wisdom and cultural knowledge, remain on the reservation.

Winter Stories night is an attempt to provide something of a substitute for our local Navajos as well as interested Bilagaanas (Anglo people). Rodger Williams has been organizing this event for a number of years, and the crowd keeps growing with each iteration. Last Sunday evening 180 people gathered for the potluck event with the majority being Navajo. In addition to story tellers, we had a drum group with singers and a variety of assorted royalty.

The evening began with the drum group, Cliff Eagle, performing an Honor Song.

Being a potluck meal, there was a wide variety of food and an ample amount of everything. No one could possibly have left hungry.

In addition to organizing the event, Rodger Williams also told stories and sang.

Our new Shi Yazhi Ambassador, Athen Canyon, was attending and presented a story about her grandfather. Other royalty included 1st attendant Ash Ne'a Anderson as well as Miss Native American Events.

Before each performance by the Cliff Eagle group, their leader, Emerson Bill, provided some background about what they would sing.

Although Cliff Eagle usually performs around their big drum, they also presented a song using hand drums.

Lacee Harris has been a popular story teller at many previous Winter Stories nights. This time he told several including one about Ma'ii. Ma'ii, or Coyote, is a popular subject of Native American stories. Representing the Trickster, Ma'ii gets himself into all sorts of predicaments which serve as lessons for all of us and the youngsters in particular.

We were particularly pleased to have Harry James and his wife Prestine join us again. Harry has been a fixture at ANE events for years and leads the Pow Wow that is the final event at our annual rug show.

Prestine took some time to describe one of the sacred Navajo winter ceremonies, the Yei Bei Chei, a nine-day event for healing and well-being. During the ceremony dancers appear wearing costumes and regalia representing the Yeis or Holy People of the Navajo. She also brought some art work so that we all could see what these costumes look like.

The Medicine Man who leads the Yei Bei Chei ceremony must sing hundreds of songs during the course of the nine days, and they must all be sung correctly and in the proper sequence for the ceremony to be effective.

Harry sang one of the songs from this special winter event.

A stirring conclusion to the evening then came with a final song from Cliff Eagle.