Gift Cards #2 and #3

Trip Start Aug 21, 2010
Trip End Dec 31, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Monday, August 23, 2010

Steve, the Head Custodian at Page Middle School, generously offered his time and efforts to help us set up the assembly. He was a valuable addition, and we found ourselves done with much time to spare. The three of us then sat on the bleachers and waited for the next bell to ring, heralding the onslaught of middle schoolers into the gymnasium. As we waited, we talked. Steve told us stories about hiking through the reservation lands surrounding Page. He loves hiking--he's lived here his whole life, and knows every square foot of the land, yet he's still awestruck by its beauty each time he ventures out. He has accumulated quite the collection of Indian arrowheads--hundreds of them, he said. And he could tell you exactly where he found each one.
What Steve really wants to find is a pot. An ancient Indian pot that has been undisturbed for centuries. "If I found one, I wouldn't touch it," he states adamantly. He explained that the Navajo patrol the reservation and have extremely severe laws about their relics and artifacts. If you were to stumble across a pot and take it home with you, if they caught you, you would find yourself in jail and with a hefty fine. In addition, they would have to have an actual medicine man come and soothe the area where it has been disturbed. Animism and spirituality of nature are not just traditional or cultural, they are still an integral part of what it means to be Navajo.
So, lesson learned, don't touch the pots.
Why would anyone want to, anyway? Well, if you were able to take one and not get caught as you sold it through the black market, it could run for upwards of $30,000. That's incentive for many people.
You see, one might happen to come across a pot just leaning up against the wall of a cave or canyon, but that's pretty rare. It's much more common to find Indian relics buried underground in marked graves. However, as you might imagine, to disturb ancient Indian graves is beyond frowned upon.
Steve told a story of one local grave robber whose desire for some easy money went a little too far. The man would search for graves and dig up the artifacts hidden there. He would then replace the artifacts with plastic water bottles and other trash. The Navajo authorities were not amused. They sent him a message saying "If we ever catch you walking these lands again, you will be shot, killed on sight, and buried. And out here, no one will ever know what happened to you."

And they were serious.

We soon transitioned into talking more about Steve and what's going on in his life. It seems his hiking has provided a peaceful reprieve from some of life's stressors in the past couple years.
A couple years ago, Steve's daughter was admitted into the hospital with some infection--a complication from childbirth. Her son, Elijah, was healthy and being cared for by her parents, but doctors struggled to control her infection. With sub-par medical care, the hospital resorted to giving her extra doses of morphine to help minimize the pain. Full of morphine, she was then released from the hospital.
Shortly after that, she went missing. For five days, no one knew where she was. When she was found, Child Protective Services were concerned with her behavior. They performed drug tests, and she tested positive.
"She had just been pumped full of morphine!" Steve exclaimed. But CPS was not impressed. A battle was sparked between CPS and Elijah's family. It wasn't long, however, before Steve's daughter passed away, finally overcome by the physical and emotional toll of her ailment and treatment.
The battle for Elijah grew even hotter as CPS stubbornly refused to allow Elijah to be cared for by his grandparents. "We didn't test positive for drugs!" Steve further argued. "You'd think we did, the way they acted!" To this day, neither Steve nor the small town of Page knows what was so difficult about that time. Indeed, everyone in town knew about Steve's confrontation with CPS, and they supported him fully. "It was amazing--I didn't even know so many people knew what was going on. CPS told me that they were receiving dozens of calls a day from people in town saying 'What are you doing to that poor child?!' 'Just let him stay with his family!'"
After several months of tug-of-war, Steve and his wife finally got legal custody of their only grandchild.
Elijah is now three years old, and an endless bundle of energy. "I said to my wife, 'I thought we were done with his, having a little one around.' We're trying to keep up."
"So what's next?" We asked.
"Well, I could retire any year now. But when I do, I'll be doing a lot more hiking. It would be great if I could start a hiking tour. I could take people out there to hike, and tell them about the land and stuff. Then I could do what I love, and make a little money for it, too."
"Going to keep up your arrowhead collection?"
"Oh yeah. I'll never sell it, though. I'm saving it for Elijah."

Elijah's got himself quite the grandparents, and we wanted to support them. In the moment, I thought of running out to our van to get a couple of gift cards to hand him right there in the gymnasium. But I was uncomfortable doing so as Camfel techs. I wanted the gesture to be from us personally. At the very least, he would probably refuse them.
So, over a week later, we wrote Steve a letter, and included two gift cards--one for Walmart and one for Subway (those were the only places in town to which we had gift cards). We addressed it to "Steve, the Head Custodian" at the school. It should be enough information. God can get it to where it needs to be.
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