WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo 4-H kids are having a better harvest season this year because the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise is buying their prize sheep and steers at Navajo Nation 4-H auctions.
Navajo Gaming spent $20,000 at the 72nd Navajo Nation Fair here to buy 4-H animals and will attend the 107th Northern Navajo Fair auction in Shiprock, New Mexico., as well, said Fire Rock Navajo Casino General Manager Gloria West.
“The 4-H kids bring their animals to show and to sell, and based on the pound we purchase certain animals,” she said. “It’s mainly to support the kids. We get cards from them saying thank you for supporting my future college fund.”
“Thank you for investing in my future,” wrote 4-Her Faith Shirley. “Your support helps fund next year’s project and invests in my college future. When I grow up I want to be involved with livestock. My goal for next year is to win Grand Champion.”
“You are awesome,” wrote Kynlie Platero of Farmington, New Mexico. “I really appreciate you buying my pig. I am giving you a big hug and thank you very, very much.”
So far, Navajo Gaming has bought 17 animals. They are sent to The Original Sweetmeat Colorado in Fruitland, New Mexico, for processing. The meat is then distributed to host chapters and given to local elderly care centers, West said.
Fire Rock leadership team members then travel to the host chapter to distribute it.
“We’ve been doing this for three years,” West said. “We’ve been part of the auction for a number of years. It was a lot of meat so we divided it up between Iyanbito Chapter and Church Rock. It’s actually a really nice gesture to give back to the chapters.”
The most expensive steer Navajo Gaming has purchased cost $6,000, she said. But the Grand Champion was sold to another buyer for $11,000.
“I believe that was the most expensive steer ever purchased,” she said. “It was beautiful. It’s not your normal steer. It was a huge steer.”
Navajo Gaming Interim CEO Brian Parrish said it’s a great idea to buy 4-H members’ animals at auction because the kids learn responsibility for another life and it reinforces the importance of raising animals.
This year’s theme for the Navajo Nation Fair was “Honoring the Diné Way of Life.” Buying 4-H animals at auction is another way for Navajo Gaming to participate and contribute to Diné life, he said.
“Navajo kids learn responsibility for taking care of animals,” Parrish said. “The harder they work, the more they’re rewarded with a better auction price for their livestock. That’s very important to learn as a family member.
“As an adult head of household, I think those are really good life lessons for kids to pick up,” Parrish added. “Ultimately, the elderly care centers are the ones that reap the rewards by being able to enjoy the meat after it’s processed.”
This year, Navajo Gaming donated $104,000 to the Navajo Nation Fair. Donations to all of the Navajo fairs will surpass more than $200,000, he said.
Parrish and NNGE Board Member Omar Bradley attended the Window Rock auction this year. The kids were clamoring all over Bradley to urge him to bid on their animals, Parrish said.
“It’s so cute because the kids come up to you beforehand and say, “Can you please? This is my number. Can you buy my lamb? Can you buy my swine?” Parrish said. “The little kids try to get their sheep to stand and the sheep’s not cooperating.”
Parrish said two Navajo grandmas stopped him at the auction this year and wanted to know where he got the money to buy all the animals and what he did with them.
He said they were concerned about Navajo Gaming being there spending this money.
“This this is a way for us to be part of the celebration of the Navajo way and the Navajo culture right alongside the Navajo people,” he explained to them. “We set aside money all year long for the sponsorship.
“In the case of the Navajo Nation Fair, that draws approximately 250,000 visitors from all over the region. This is one of the absolute best ways we can introduce new players and people to our casino operations,” he said.
He said the money Navajo Gaming puts into sponsorships returns as exposure to the Navajo casinos and brings more new visitors to them.
As he explained to the grandmas that the purchased auction meat is donated to chapters and elderly care centers, they smiled and nodded their approval, he said.
Information provided by Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprises