News Release

Church Participates in Sheep Donation on Navajo Reservation 

Donations assist tribal members during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated Monday, June 1, 2020

Latter-day Saints participated in an effort to provide live sheep to the Navajo Nation in Utah. Representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered assistance with senior staff from the Utah Governor’s Office and leaders from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and the Utah Farm Bureau in Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain on Monday, June 1, 2020. 

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The project included the delivery of 250 live sheep to residents in Halchita, Navajo Mountain and Oljató-Monument Valley, along with 10,000 pounds of flour processed by Utah wheat farmers in San Juan County. 

“That is what sustains life. It gives hope. It gives [people] a tool and it also gives prosperity,” said Rebecca Benally, project coordinator. “Because of COVID, some people are on lockdown, quarantine. They feel lonely. They feel depressed. They feel that maybe no one’s thinking about them. So with this sheep, it has given people what they tell me is hope and that somebody cares about them.”

The group also met with Navajo tribal members in Monument Valley, Utah, to receive an update on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“The Navajo Nation has the highest infection rate from the COVID-19 virus in the United States, ahead of New York and New Jersey,” explained Larry Echo Hawk, special counsel of Indian affairs for the Utah governor’s office and an emeritus General Authority Seventy of the Church. “It has been really challenging and difficult for the Navajo people here, where 30 percent of them don’t even have running water, and households with maybe three generations of people living in that household.” 

The project is part of the Farmers Feeding Utah program. Monday’s donations were the second delivery of live sheep to the Navajo chapters in Utah. On May 25, 250 live sheep were delivered to Navajo families in need from Aneth, Red Mesa and Tódahadekanii. 

In addition, tribal members in Utah received deliveries of thousands of pounds of frozen lamb meat and flour on May 22 and May 28. 

“This will be probably the single most important thing that happens during this pandemic,” said Elder Todd S. Larkin, an Area Seventy who is overseeing the Church’s humanitarian efforts for the Navajo Nation. 

Elder Larkin continued, “They’ll take these sheep and … it will provide food, nourishment to their families, probably until this is over. I sure hope it doesn’t last longer than that.”

Navajo Sheep Donation
Live sheep were donated to Navajo tribal members in need in Monument Valley, Utah, on Monday, June 1, 2020. Deliveries were also made in Halchita and Navajo Mountain.2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“It’s really great because we do eat a lot of lamb, and this is a fabulous way because, right now, we are low on food. So we are so appreciative that this was sent our way,” said recipient Lena Black.

It is difficult for many Navajos who live on the reservation to buy food. “The nearest gas station is 40 miles away, but that's just a little convenience store. But a real grocery store is like 100 miles [away],” said June Fatt of Navajo Mountain, who expressed her appreciation for the sheep donation.

Navajos value the life of a sheep not only for the food sheep provide in times of food insufficiency but also for the products they provide that are used for crafts and cultural ceremonies. 

“The wool also is put to good use for weaving beautiful Navajo rugs. And so sheep is very symbolic of hope and prosperity,” added Benally.

“This is the greatest evidence of Christlike love that we could ever begin to experience,” said Elder Larkin. “We’ve got people from all kinds of different backgrounds, people from different places, different circumstances entirely, who come together because of mutual concern and love and respect.”

Partners for the project included the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Utah State University’s Hunger Solutions Institute and Create Better Health program, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, the Utah Division of Emergency Management, Utah Wool Growers Association and Utah Wool Marketing Association. 

For more information, visit FarmersFeedingUtah.Org.

Church Sends Food to Navajo Nation

Food and supplies from the Bishops’ Central Storehouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been sent to remote areas of the Navajo Nation Reservation to assist the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Navajo Nation spans portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah in the Southwestern United States. 


Navajo Food Donation
Volunteer Earl Tulley (right) assists with a food delivery on the eastern portion of the Navajo Reservation, Monday, April 6, 2020. All rights reserved.

“The majority of the homes in the United States without power and running water are on the Navajo Reservation,” said Elder Todd S. Larkin, Area Seventy, North America Southwest Area. “Limited internet service often makes them the last to be informed in a crisis.” 

Two Deseret Transportation trucks from Salt Lake City carrying canned goods, flour and pasta arrived at a Pentecostal church in Tohatchi, New Mexico, on Thursday morning, April 2, 2020, for distribution. Members of the Navajo Nation government, a local pastor and Church members worked to unload the products. 

"We appreciate the help and hope that we can reach as many people as possible who are in need," said Shannon D. Pinto, a New Mexico state senator, who helped empty the trucks. "I also hope we can continue our relationship [with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] until this is all over. Blessed are those who help."

“We’re just here to help with what’s going on in this epidemic, but to also uplift our community [and] protect our [tribal] elders,” said Pastor Martin Eastridge of the Tohatchi United Pentecostal Church on the Navajo Reservation in Tohatchi. 

Pastor Eastridge donated the use of his church building to warehouse food and supplies for the relief effort. “[Latter-day Saints] have always been known for food storage. I read a lot about their being ready for times like this. We should all take a lesson from them.” 

Navajo Food Donation
Volunteers help sort a food donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tohatchi, New Mexico, on Thursday, April 2, 2020.All rights reserved.

“Volunteers then assembled more than 100 30-pound boxes of food for high-risk individuals – those on oxygen, in wheelchairs, latchkey elders, families with no transportation,” explained Lynn A. Whipple, region manager of the Church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Services Department.

“I just want to say thank you very much, everybody, for giving us this donation,” said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Pernell Halona from Tohatchi. “We’ll make good use of it. There’s a lot of people out here that need supplies for the elderly and the people that are [in a] handicapped situation.”

“The elderly typically live in the more rural areas of the reservation, where diabetes and lung disease are exceptionally common, making them highest at risk if they contract the virus,” added Elder Larkin.

Many of the recipients live up to 50 miles away from grocery stores or other conveniences. Curfews are also in place on the reservation to limit the spread of the virus, and the elders are being kept in their homes to keep them safe.

“Without power and water, simple things like bathing and washing hands are at a premium,” explained Elder Larkin. “If the virus gains a foothold here, the results will be devastating.”

“Food boxes were delivered by volunteers – often driving on long, isolated dirt roads – who dropped boxes on doorsteps or in person while maintaining social-distancing efforts,” said Whipple.

Navajo Food Donation
Missionaries in Monument Valley, Utah, help deliver sheep to Navajo families in need on Monday, June 1, 2020. 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“We made it from [the] warehouse in Salt Lake City to homes of the elderly, down long dirt roads to some of the most remote areas on the Navajo Reservation in two days,” said Earl Tulley, a volunteer who assisted with the food deliveries on the eastern portion of the reservation.

Tulley also serves as a member of the Church’s North America Southwest Area Native American Resource Group. On Monday, he was wrapping up the final deliveries to grateful recipients in remote areas on the reservation.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a 150-year relationship with the Navajo Nation, and we are determined to do all we can to ensure that they fare as well as any of the rest of us in this crisis,” said Elder Larkin.

“We are anxious to do all in our power to relieve suffering and to ensure that adequate food is distributed to the elderly so that they do not go hungry and are not forced to go out into public areas where they could be exposed to the virus,” he said.

The Navajo Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe and several surrounding counties and communities joined a global fast for COVID-19 relief on Good Friday, April 10. Navajo County, Arizona, leaders declared Friday a "Community Day of Prayer and Fasting."

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