Evergreen resident Mariah Roberts is collecting clothing and other goods for impoverished Native Americans in Arizona and South Dakota. She is also hoping that someone will donate a truck to take the items to them — an expense that can be prohibitive, she said.
Roberts is working through Native American Research and Preservation Inc., a nonprofit corporation that assists people living on reservations. The organization supplements government programs and is involved in efforts to preserve historic Native American culture and historic sites.
While camping near Salida last fall, Roberts said, she became acquainted with Becky Donlan, owner of Tribal Treasures, a nonprofit store that sells Native American crafts in the western Colorado town. Donlan also is involved in charitable efforts of the Native American organization.
“I devote myself to assisting this courageous woman who has taken on the task of aiding Native Americans,” said Roberts. “I am drawn to help the native people who have suffered so.”
Many people are not aware of the deprivation in which many Native Americans exist, Roberts said.
Nearly 40 percent of Native Americans at the Navajo Nation Reservation spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah are living in poverty, according to a 2010 study by the Arizona Rural Policy Institute, which used 2010 U.S. census information.
Poverty rates on the Navajo Nation Reservation are more than twice as high as poverty rates in the state of Arizona, according to census data.
Many of the children living on the reservations do not have enough food to eat, said Donlan. The only meal that some of them have is the lunch they receive while attending school.
“It’s a disgrace that people are living like this,” Donlan said. “It’s absolute deprivation.”
The area in which the Navajo live is also very isolated — making it difficult to bring goods and supplies to them, said Roberts.
While many people have been generous in donating clothing food, bedding and other necessities, transporting the aid to the reservation in Canyon de Chelly, Ariz., is costly, said Roberts. The cost of one trip, including truck rental and gasoline, is about $800, she said.
Roberts is hoping to find a way to take clothing for children and adults to the reservation before it starts snowing this fall. Among items she is seeking are warm winter outerwear, baby and children’s clothing, and sewing machines with which Native Americans make quilts they sell.
While talking about her involvement with Native Americans, Roberts said she became interested in the culture as a youngster traveling with her family.
“We toured Mesa Verde, the Anasazi ruins and the pueblos of New Mexico on summer vacations,” she said.
As an adult, Roberts said, she became acquainted with Bear Heart, a Native American elder from Albuquerque who taught her the ways of his people and gave her insight into another way of life.
Roberts recently has returned to Evergreen, where she formerly lived with her family.
“Many joyful times were spent near our house in ‘the valley,’ which is now the dog off-leash park,” said Roberts.
Now retired, Roberts is spending much of her time assisting Native Americans in need.
“I am hoping this message goes far beyond this community as we all strive to play our part to make this world a better place for all,” she said.
People who would like to make contributions may reach Roberts by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monetary contributions also may be made through Native American Research and Preservation Inc. Those who donate will receive a receipt, said Donlan. The organization’s website is www.stonequest.org.
Contact Sandy Barnes at email@example.com or call 303-350-1042.