Amerindian, Inc. relies on the generous donations to help Native American people. To fulfill our long range vision, we will need significant support in the form of money. To date, most of our donations have been food, clothing, and time. Any help you can give is truly appreciated and will be put to good use for our American Indian population.
Linda Gray is a gatherer, a minister and a woman who helps American Indians - from the Eastern Cherokee of North Carolina to the Navajo near Tuba City, Arizona. As president of AMERINDIAN, INC., Gray's mission statement is "Indians Helping Indians." She depends largely on Las Vegans to bring her blankets, furniture and clothing that she gathers for those in need, mostly young children and the elderly who live on reservations.
An Eastern Cherokee, Gray has made Las Vegas home for 35 years, and has been collecting the most basic necessities for the poor for as long as she can remember. She started AMERINDIAN 10 years ago so those who donated could write off their donations. "I've always tried to help out," Gray said. "It's my family."
Gray's family includes anyone living on a reservation in need, especially in the Western United States. After her father died, Gray found "adopted" parents in Phillip and Juanita Jackson. The Jacksons live on a Navajo reservation near Tuba City, Arizona. "They help me with my cause," Gray said. "Most of the time, I rent a big (truck) and haul the stuff around to reservations, but they also drive their camper up here to pick up things."
Gray and whoever tags along for the ride encounter areas where no roads exist. "I realize there's a mystery about American Indians, and there 's a lot of negative feelings that many don't help themselves," Gray said. "We've lost three generations of American Indians through our own Holocaust when many were taken away as children from their reservations and sent to boarding schools. They lost their native language and the ceremony and balance involved with the American Indian's way of life. There's a 60-year gap this century where many know nothing of their heritage. But now the young ones are asking their elders about more."
As young American Indians are finding their way back to the simple way of life -- or becoming more enterprising - Gray said it's important to help those who can't help themselves as much: young children and babies, and the elderly who live on reservations.
While Gray admits she wants to help everyone, her efforts mostly are concentrated on those who need the most basic of necessities.
Every few months, Gray gathers up whatever she has washed and stacked in boxes and hits the road in a rented truck. Instead of operating through the red tape of administrative processes like the United Way or American Red Cross, she relies strictly on those who tell her what they need.
Gray hauls her goods along washboard roads in such places as Arizona and Montana, and stops where elders live - asking what they need. She digs through the back of her truck to answer their wishes. "It seems like we're always getting stuck," Gray said. "Once you get off the pavement on some reservations, I need help digging out of the dirt and mud."
On one trip to Arizona, Gray decided to turn down one such road where a sign read, "Moenave," a small settlement she had previously seen but never attempted to enter. She began knocking on doors to ask what residents needed. No one in Moenave had power or water. But they were happy to know Gray had a truckload of warm blankets. Gray stopped at a small house where a young pregnant girl answered the door. "She started crying and kept asking me , 'How did you know?'" Gray said. "This happens to me a lot. I tell them that whoever prayed for the blankets is responsible."
American Indian Chamber of Commerce, co-founder Karl Simecka has worked with Gray for several years. "I've helped her collect and distribute clothing and other donations to American Indian Reservations," Simecka said. "She does a marvelous job and I know she pays the expenses out of her own pocket."
Simecka's tribe, Citizen Potawatomi in Oklahoma, is extremely enterprising. Those living on the reservation have their own bank and golf course, and are building a large supermarket. At the other extreme are tribes in Montana and North Dakota that are extremely poor and very traditional. "Such tribes want to retain their language, custom and culture," Simecka said. "But they do need so much, and Linda helps with some very basic items."
While Gray helps tribes by providing clothing, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce is trying to promote Indian business. Simecka, in conjunction with the Small Business Administration and other chamber members, assists American Indians with business plans and loans. "I've also worked with Arizona tribes and what they're doing there is tremendous to be self-sufficient," Simecka said. "And thanks to gaming revenue, they're achieving that. They're using money wisely to develop other business, and that's my hope for Nevada tribes who aren't as far along as Arizona."
Gray in the meantime is doing her gathering. Those interested in helping AMERINDIAN can call (702) 393-3476.
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