An inspiration for youth

Grandma Thomas walked 80 miles each year to raise funds for youth complex

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Marjorie “Grandma” Thomas, 85, poses for the camera on Friday in Window Rock.


If you’ve been wondering where she’s been, look no more.

On Friday, the matriarch, more popularly known as Grandma Thomas, 85, came by the Navajo Times office with her son, Leon Skyhorse Thomas.

She had walked for years raising money for the youth of Chinle. Her 80-mile trek between Chinle and Window Rock was a common sight in September during the Navajo Nation Fair.

Children and their parents walked with her carrying buckets and signs asking for donations to her cause, which was to build a youth complex in Chinle.

Her goal at the time was to raise $25 million. In the end, she raised more than $100,000, which now sits unused in a bank account.

The last time Thomas walked was in 2010. Her biggest supporter, her husband of 50 years, Leo Thomas, passed on in 2008.

Her son Leon spoke on behalf of Marjorie (her first name), telling about her childhood and what she has been doing since she stopped walking.

“My mom grew up in Chinle and went to boarding school, which she did not like,” Leon said. “One of her experiences was she went to Gallup for the first time during a school trip. They went to eat in a restaurant and they wouldn’t serve the Navajo children. She remembers crying.”

His mother recalled walking to the top of a hill where her teachers brought sandwiches, chips and sodas for her and her classmates.

Afterward, they went to El Morro Theater to watch a Shirley Temple movie. Excited, Marjorie rushed down the aisle to find a seat only to be stopped by a Caucasian man, who told her that her place was on the balcony, where the non-whites sat, on wooden benches.

Bothered by the experience, she could not enjoy the movie. When she got home, she asked her grandmother why they were treated badly.

“‘Well, these people don’t understand the word love,'” she recalled.

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