Ramadan in the Goshute Reservation
September 17, 2015
Minkailu Jalloh, US Program Specialist, Islamic Relief USA
Standing outside the Goshute Tribal Headquarters in Ibapah, Utah, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and vast expanses of the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen, it seemed unfathomable to me that a human being could want for anything in this place. It was easy to imagine a time when the Native Tribes roamed this valley as hunter-gatherers, living off the land, taking only what was necessary to survive, and maintaining the delicate ecological balance of the Great Basin. It took some effort to remember that we were here specifically because this way of life was no longer a reality. Attempts to “civilize” the Goshutes through the promotion of sedentary agriculture in the late 1800’s had been largely unsuccessful. Lacking a strong economic base, unemployment and poverty had been constant problems on the reservation. Now, Islamic Relief USA was here, in partnership with the local Utah based organization, Building Youth Around the World, to provide support to the tribe in the form of food and other basic items.
During the Holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting and spiritual reflection for the Muslim community, Islamic Relief was hosting food distribution across the United States. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during this month, and the hunger we feel during the day reminds us of the needs of those who fast not by choice, but out of necessity. The Goshute Reservation was my twelfth stop on a tour of twenty cities, distributing boxes filled with an assortment of food items, including staples like rice and oil, as well as some unique cultural items such as Turkish Delights. On the one hand, it was uplifting to see such a disparate group of people come together purely with the objective of lending a hand. Muslims with roots in Africa and the Levant were working side by side with multi-generational American Mormans, and members of the Goshute Tribe, to bring aid to this small community. However it is difficult to see the poverty in these places and dissociate it from the historical injustice done to the people there. It is hard not to feel shame for enjoying the benefits this country has to offer and forgetting the cost at which they came. Even as the child of immigrants, a first generation American of African descent, I felt the sting of guilt. As a society, as a Nation, it is clear that we have largely ignored these people. The Goshutes to their credit were kind and gracious hosts. They were proud without being arrogant, and very thankful for our visit. It was a pleasure to be of service to their community, but also very sad, because it was clear the need would not cease after our departure. The event was a strong reminder for me that hunger permeates every inch of this country. Our efforts to eradicate hunger often focus on its most visible victims, but there are those whom we have hidden away, perhaps so we can be spared reminders of an ugly past. But we cannot afford to forget.