“Our focus is on supporting the elders who desire to remain on their lands. We have no agenda to try to change them in any way. These are resilient people and as long as they have their basic needs of food, heat, and shelter met, they will survive as they have for hundreds of years.”

These remarkable rugs serve a lifesaving purpose

It’s a gut-twisting scenario—senior citizens living in extreme poverty with little to eat, no running water, no electricity, nearly nonexistent medical care and the very real threat of freezing to death.

This might sound like a desperate scene playing out far off in the developing world, but it takes place daily across the Navajo Reservation, just hours from Park City.

“Adopt-A-Native-Elder is a humanitarian program that helps reduce the extreme poverty and hardship facing traditional elders living on the Navajo Reservation. We deliver food, medical supplies, firewood and other forms of support while respecting the tradition and dignity of Navajo elders,” says Linda Myers, a Park City resident and founder of the non-profit organization Adopt-A-Native-Elder, a program she started 30 years ago after learning about the living conditions of many elder Native Americans.

One way the organization is able to offer support is by hosting the annual Adopt-A-Native-Elder Rug Show & Sale every November. Now in its 30th year, this multi-day show features over 600 one-of-a-kind weavings, handmade pieces of native jewelry, crafts, cultural presentations and more. The Navajo artists keep 100% of the proceeds from their sales, which often equate to their annual income. In addition to offering a platform to sell their weavings, the event is also a cultural exchange, featuring presentations, weaving demonstrations, singing, dancing and a traditional pow-wow before closing. 

“The money the weavers earn allows them to buy life-saving firewood and to support themselves throughout the harsh winter months,” Linda added. “You might think you’re just buying a rug, but you are providing so much more than that. You are giving someone hope. Most of our weavers are in their 80s and 90s and have no means of travel or places to sell their rugs. We provide a market for the elders to meet collectors and others who want to buy their rugs.”

Over the years Linda’s efforts have helped more than 3,000 Navajo elders. Th rough her outreach, she’s delivered over 5 million pounds of food and she has an estimated 5,000 supporters across the globe. She was even nominated as a CNN Hero of the Year in 2017.

“The Navajo elders our program serves are the last generation of traditional indigenous people in the United States. We encourage as many people as possible to come to the rug show and get to know the elders and their families before their culture and traditions are lost to time,” she noted.

This year’s annual rug show will be held November 8-10 at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge.