A Nomad Thanksgiving

What is Thanksgiving really about?

Well, it is another Nomad Thanksgiving day for me. And while my American brothers and sisters are busy being grateful for Butterballs, the NFL, and $100 Sony TVs on Black Friday, I sit here, alone in the forest, and contemplate gratitude. Do I have a right to feel grateful for having this gorgeous forest camp all to myself? For the sky and the trees and the crunchy autumn leaves?

My mind returns to the remembrance of a tweet from a man of the Cherokee Nation after “Nomadland” came out. “Nomadland is literally a film that wistfully celebrates how white people have ability to become ‘free’ in land evacuated of Indigenous peoples.” he wrote.

My immediate gut reaction was to deny his interpretation. Yet, months after reading this tweet, it has stuck with me. Is it true?

Yeah, it kind of is…

Today, I will give in to that truth.

Today, I acknowledge how privileged I am to live life the way I do; to walk once-sacred grounds, to be one with the trees, the birds, the sky, to feel as though I have a right to this public land, and this life that was stripped away from others.

Original Nomad Life

Nomading is not new. First Nation people have been nomads for tens of thousands of years. The Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and other Plains tribes followed the Buffalo and lived in Tipis. We tend to forget this fact and instead, self-righteously believe we are the pioneers of modern-day America. Boldly shunning a world we do not fit in, do not want, and did not ask for. Sure, in that way we have much in common with the Indigenous Peoples.

But in reality, we could not be more different. Colonialism, war, assimilation, broken treaties, and time have made me the de-facto beneficiary of something lost–no, that’s too easy–something stolen.

So what is Thanksgiving supposed to mean for non-native Americans then? I really don’t know. But I can not just celebrate the day without recognizing this truth.

Let today be a day of honor.

Today, I will make new traditions that will honor and embrace the people, the culture, and the way of life that was vanquished; all but erased from our culture.

Today, I will walk in the woods and let my feet carry my mind to a world that could have been. An old world that is pure, meaningful, and buried too deep beneath the mores of productivity, progress, and profit of today’s world.

Today, I will meditate (oh who am I kidding, I’ll sit in the pine needles and try to pretend I don’t hear the freeway a couple miles away). I’ll watch the trees sway in the wind, shedding their fall sweaters. I’ll watch Sadie sniff out every log and branch and trapper’s hole in the ground. I’ll listen to the birds and breathe in the cool crisp morning air.

Let today be humbling.

Today, I will give thanks to the people, the culture, the way of life that was lost so that I could have the life I do.  

Today I will be thankful to our mother Earth, the provider of all life.   

Today, I will prepare my camp for rain and wonder what it would have been like living in a tipi during the rain. 

I will make a meal and imagine the same ingredients: sweet potato, corn, and onions picked from a garden or field from the tribal camp.

I will contemplate my fortune and my privilege, paying homage to the brave warriors(Dahnawa Danatlihi in Cherokee), mothers(Okasu in Algonquian), and children(wah-ky-yeh-ja in Lakota- literally meaning “sacred gift”) who should be here, celebrating this glorious day alongside me. 

8 comments

  1. Love this tribute to indigenous people of this land that was stolen from them & enslaved them, so much knowledge has been lost, with true healing, & way of live in harmony with the universe, thank you Carol

  2. And I wish you a thoughtful day full of your own thankfulness. Be thankful for whatever you feel you need to be thankful for.

    I’m wondering how long this will be a holiday given it’s beginnings….but hopefull it will remain a day of contemplation for what we give and what we can give to others.

    That being said, I’m tired of the cooking prep! Just give me a plate and be done with it. Vegan, gluten free is challenging especially mixing with meat eaters. But, I’m learning new recipes and little changes here and there work.
    So, cornish hens for the meat eaters and meatless meatballs in the air fryer for others….mushroom gravy for all!
    Have a lovely day where ever you are.

  3. Your post about Thanksgiving hit a nerve. Recently I’ve been reading & thinking about the treatment of indigenous people here & in other countries. At least one of my direct ancestors was given a large parcel to settle in Kentucky after the Revolutionary War….another obtained Cherokee land when that tribe was forcefully moved. It’s painful to realize much of my history comes from destroying lives & cultures of American Indians. Thank you for the thought provoking post.

  4. Carolyn,
    You share my heart dear sister. My teacher, a student and Dance Chief of Beautiful Painted Arrow, taught those of us who sat under her teachings that those of us who find one another in this lifetime used to be in tribe together many moons and lifetimes ago. I believe this teaching.

    I don’t know a lot about my heritage as my mother was adopted at age two and her records were sealed and now lost. I do know I am a caucasian looking but my heart pants after the sky beings, Lightning, Thunder, and Rain, and the earth beings, Standing People, Rivers, and grasslands, and all the many creatures that share this land together.

    I am grateful to live in the most beautiful of enchanted places in the lower 48, the Olympic Peninsula of the Pacific Northwest! It is old, and holds the mysteries of its original people, the Quileute, Elwha, Hoh, Quinalt, Makah, and others. I haven’t felt welcome here by the people I grew to love over the 14 years sitting under the tutelage of my teacher, Hasie One Heart, but I honor all people just the same. They are my brothers and sisters just like the air and the sun and earth.

    I sit with you in the silence…in the trees…in the Great Mystery my dear friend. And, I wish you and Sadie the most deeply enchanted Thanksgiving, sending you much love and understanding.

    As always…YOU ROCK!
    Cloud Woman
    (Kathryn Kenyon)

  5. So thoughtful and considerate. We need more of this in our modern society.I have followed your travels from your beginning on UT. Thank you.

  6. You are a thinker with poetry in your heart. I used to watch your videos to get to know about your nomad lifestyle. But now, I’m mainly here for the stories and musings. A happy thanksgiving day to you, Carolyn.

  7. Thanks for Sharing Carolyn.
    I really enjoyed your words.
    Sending much love and good vibes from Quebec, Canada.

    Soon to be Future Nomads- Cabeto, Alex and our furry companions Borat & Cado.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shares