Donations help elderly Navajo maintain traditional lifestyles
FORTY NAVAJO ELDERS living in remote tribal areas in the Southwest are now receiving food packages, food certificates and firewood courtesy of the Boilermakers union as part of an outreach program based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
International President Newton B. Jones said a decision was made last year to support the program, Adopt-A-Native-Elder, as a substantial number of our members who live in Arizona and New Mexico are part of the Navajo Nation.
"Boilermakers across North America give back to their communities in many ways - by raising money for worthwhile projects and individuals in need, for example. When we learned about the Adopt-A-Native-Elder program, we thought of our Local 4 (Page, Arizona) and Local 627 (Phoenix) members, many of whom are from the Navajo nation. This is a way for us to support the greater Navajo community."
Adopt-A-Native-Elder serves elders who practice the cultural and spiritual traditions of the Navajo people. Most live in isolated areas of the reservation, with many still residing in hogans (the traditional home of the Navajo people).
"As the Navajo elders have aged, it's become increasingly difficult for them to support themselves on the land through traditional means," said Adopt-A-Native-Elder Director Linda Myers. "Some raise sheep, weave rugs and create other items as a means of financial support but it's often not enough."
For over 30 years, Adopt-A-Native-Elder has filled the gap by providing food, simple medicines, clothing, fabric and yarns to help over 550 elders who live on the land.
"We have an opportunity to touch the lives of these traditional people, to hold their hands, listen to their words and show them that despite the many abuses they have suffered, there are people who care for them, people who respect them and their way of life," said Myers. She said donations from the Boilermakers have made a positive impact on the comfort, security, and survival of these men and women.
IN RESPONSE TO donations, recipients have sent letters of thanks to the union. Below are a few excerpts: