A Magic Treasure Chest and a Special Touch

Yanabah has many grandchildren each of whom carry their own personal set of experiences with and memories of her. Yet, common to us all are memories about the mystery and allure of Yanabah’s treasure chest. There were a couple chests in which she kept important things packed away. Whenever grandchildren were visiting, one of those chests always seemed to offer up endless sugar filled treasures. Evening time would prompt the use of kerosene lamps to light her home. These kerosene lamps are relics of an era almost completely forgotten as even the most remote parts of the reservation now often have access to electricity. But hand held kerosene lamps with cloth wicks will forever remind me of Yanabah’s home. Light from these lamps was warm and yellow in color in contrast to the much brighter modern light bulbs. An already warm and inviting environment seemed so much more so in the soft glow of those kerosene lamps. In this setting, Yanabah would open the chest to bring out soda and pastries. Sometimes it was Pepsi, sometimes Coke, other times it was Shasta. But without fail there were donuts and jellyrolls which had been supplied to the reservation from by bakery in Gallup, New Mexico. Glazed donuts were a staple but were often accompanied by the more exotic variety pack of powder sugar coated, chocolate frosted, and coconut covered donuts. Jellyrolls were essentially cake and jelly rolled together. Could life get any better for a kid? To watch Yanabah must have been like witnessing the most effortless bonding between generations. She was a natural. It’s hard to say exactly why...

Yanabah: The Spirit of Giving Thanks

It is an interesting paradox that so often those who have so little are the ones who exhibit the most gratitude.  Yanabah was no exception.  She had very little of monetary value.  Yet, through the course of my life, I have yet to meet someone who more completely exuded a spirit of thanksgiving than her.  I spent a significant part of my childhood with her.  Her home was small.  Two rooms; a kitchen and a living/sleeping room.  Each had a wood-burning stove for heat and, in the kitchen, for cooking. Water was hauled in and stored in large drums outside.  Indoor plumbing didn’t exist and still doesn’t across much of the reservation.  Electricity came during the last few years of her life, but throughout all of my childhood and well into my adult years, kerosene lamps provided the light at night.  Today it would be considered third world.  To us then, and to Yanabah in particular, it was everything we needed. I watched nearly everything she did.  She was the epitome of what you would imagine a Navajo grandmother to be. Soft spoken, exceedingly kind, wise, and capable.  I noticed, on many occasions, one particular practice which I did not understand.  Often while cooking a meal, she would take a small bit of food and throw it in the fire of the wood-burning stove while saying a quiet prayer.  One day I asked why she did this.  In her quiet and humble manner, she explained that we are supposed to give back to mother-earth to show our thankfulness.  That moment has remained with me. I was part of many...

Who Would Ever Sell Navajo Tea? And Other Thoughtful Insights.

We’ve often questioned the wisdom of building a company around Navajo Tea.  It’s completely unknown outside the Four Corners area of the US, and even within that small area it’s really only Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo people who are familiar with it.  Forget the fact that nobody had ever cultivated it.  And look past the minor detail that you can’t just order 50-pound bags of Navajo Tea seeds to begin doing so on a commercial scale.  In the end, we knew we could compensate with a large marketing budget and years of experience in the tea industry…except we didn’t have those things either.  Well, at least we were skilled farmers (insert laughter here)!  Yet this much was and still is clear; Navajo Tea is so good that it should be enjoyed far beyond its geographic obscurity.  So here we are. Though the product is an herbal tea, the story is that of an entire people.  A bold statement perhaps, yet it’s not very often that a single drink is so expressive of the people for whom it’s named.  In many ways, we see Navajo Tea as more than a delicious and healthy drink; it’s Anthropology in a Cup. We will, of course, tell the story of Navajo Tea and everything that makes it so unique and desirable.  But that’s only a fraction of what we hope to accomplish with this blog.  There’s much more at play here.  We named our company after an amazing woman, our grandmother, Yanabah.  You’ll learn why she so perfectly emulated everything good about Navajo culture and tradition.  We’ll tell the stories of other...