Thanksgiving is a week away.

It’s my favorite holiday (because FOOD) but I don’t think I can celebrate it any more, not now that I’ve been to Standing Rock. It’s one thing to know intellectually that white people have done shitty things to Natives. It is quite another to spend time on a reservation with them, stand in a prayer circle next to them, cook and eat with them. And hear their stories.

You start to see things differently.

European immigrants, possibly some of my ancestors, participated or at least benefitted from genocide many times worse than the Holocaust. As I look around me at improbable shopping malls in the desert and highways that cut through what once was open land, I try to imagine what life was like before white people came here.

I can forget the horror in my daily life because it’s not in my face but Natives can’t forget, no more than African Americans can forget the suffering of their slave ancestors, suffering that still continues.

I want to run away from this knowledge and hide in the hills, eat my turkey and wait four years for this new horror to end. It would be easy to do, at least for a while. All I’d have to do is delete Facebook and all news sources from my phone, and somehow resist the urge to check them on my laptop.

Yeah, real easy.

I am camped with about twenty vandwellers in the desert near Lake Havasu City, AZ for the month of November, fixing up our vans together as part of my friend, Jamie Dimon’s first annual Build Out Your Van Party. Some people are getting solar panels installed, others need help building beds, still others are getting shower set-ups. I’ve already got solar so am waiting my turn for Jamie to install a vent fan in my roof to keep it comfortably cool in the sun. Meanwhile, I plan to pull everything out, clean, and reorganize.

In camp, nobody talks politics. You would almost think they don’t know what happened last week. It’s a weird-but-nice break from all the bad news I addictively follow online in my van at night. No one talks about nonviolent revolt or contacting our representatives or even wearing a safety pin.

Sometimes, around the campfire, I am tempted to ask if they know about these things but that would break the spell.

Scout doesn’t care. She is having the time of her life, playing with the other dogs and mooching treats off their owners.

The weather has finally cooled off. There is a harsh beauty to this place that is a lot less harsh when it’s not hot.

It would be idyllic, if only last week hadn’t happened. If only.

Now I need to find a way, as a writer/nomad, to be part of the solution. Not sure yet how that’s going to shake out but I will be talking about it as I go along. Stay tuned.

p.s. If you are happy about the election results, you might not enjoy reading this blog any more.

p.p.s. Totally different subject: Christmas is coming, too fast. I am in the midst of revising a short memoir called The Red Feather Christmas Tree, a true story from my childhood. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I will have it up on Kindle in a week or so. If you’d like a free preview, let me know and I will send it as soon as revisions are completed. Thanks!

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Showing 12 comments
  • Wendy

    Jer & I would definitely like a preview!

    • LaVonne Ellis

      You’re on! I hope to have it ready to go in a few days and will send you a preview copy then. 🙂

  • Linda Buie

    Wow! No comments. Must be the topic. I am avoiding all news and have unfollowed many on FaceBook. I will be interested, however, to read about any future decisions you make on what to do about this situation.

  • Gary

    I think you would be wise not to bring politics up at camp. First of all, that is why people become nomads, to get the hell away from it all. Secondly, half of America does not agree with you and these cry-baby college students. I really enjoy your posts, but if you are going on a political rant I am sure you’ll loose half your audience. Just saying… Peace!

    • LaVonne Ellis

      Yes, and I want a break from it myself. I definitely don’t want to spoil this desert idyll with politics. And I’m pretty sure most of us don’t bring it up because we know we’re a mixed group with a wide variety of opinions.

      No, I’m not going to go on a political rant but this is not something I can ignore. It’s affecting my life and that’s what I write about.

      If you are okay with swastikas spray painted on synagogues, people being beat up and intimidated, and white supremacists advising the President, I suggest you find another blog to read. That kind of audience, I can do without.

  • Karen

    LaVonne, you are so right. It is extremely hard to ignore what we as Europeans have done to the Natives by taking the best, most productive land as our own and what we have done to the descendants of slaves who built a lot of the wealth of the country with their sweat and lives. It’s hard to ignore it when you have the time to travel, to learn more than our history books teach and to talk to people who are living with the results of our decisions. It’s really hard to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Columbus day.

    So don’t stop posting about what is important to you on your blog. Don’t stop pointing out injustices. Freedom of speech is the first thing to be squelched and calling people poor losers, cry babies, or rude is a thinly veiled attempt to get them to shut up. We’re thinking about going to Phoenix on Jan 20th as a way of showing our support for everyone who is standing against all the Un-American policies that Trump is promoting. Your company would be very welcome if you’d like to come along.

    • LaVonne Ellis

      Thank you, Karen — I would love to come along!

      • Karen

        Great! We can talk about the details more at the RTR.

  • Leni-Katie

    Hey LaVonne,

    My understanding of and appreciation for Thanksgiving is as its role as a harvest festival – a celebration of and gratitude for a good harvest – which is the best guarantee people have for survival. Harvest festivals happen all over the world , and are generally appreciated by people who live in a region subject to periods of privation. Lands with harsh winters tend to create people who are thankful for full larders.

    I have never thought of Thanksgiving as an event centered on European settlers and Wampanoag. I have always thought of it as a time for recognizing and giving thanks for having enough to eat and a warm place to sleep. Like many other cultures, Amerinds have celebrated the harvest before the Europeans came:

    If you look at Thanksgiving in this way you might be able to celebrate it in a different spirit, much more basic —> survival and thrival. Attitude of gratitude. Because, as you pointed out: “It’s my favorite holiday (because FOOD)”. That’s what it’s all about, baby!

    To everything there is a season, and right now it’s time to give thanks. That’s how I look at it.

    Love, K

  • Sandra

    After the election I went through all of the emotions associated with a death. Anger, denial, grief. I have come out the other side somewhat dazed and confused, and not quite sure what I can do to make things better. So am grateful for kindred spirits who are taking time to think deeply about the issues. Emotionally, I have been deeply worried, and anxiously optimistic, and just plain scared at what is going to happen. Intellectually, I have been trying to understand, and not demonize. Its all been vey exhausting!
    I finally decided that each day I would try to do something that improves my small sliver of the world. Volunteer, write a letter to my representative, sign a petition, attend a city hall meeting. I don’t know what else. .but things that are beyond my own personal care and well being. So far its working. Don’t stop sharing your thoughts. they are powerful and much needed.

  • BFG

    Hi Lavonne, you may be surprised that I’m actually still you know alive, and it seems like I am now at least.

    I can’t remember the last time I wrote to you, because I’ve been quite unwell, and my mind is damaged since the last operation. My ability to do things much apart from eating sleeping and s*iting, has been nil for two years.

    Since then (the operation), I had lost the ability to read or write for about a year or so, have been fired from my job, my wife has had two heart attacks and a double bypass, and I’m on a invalids benefit.

    But, despite all that and a nephew drowning in the harbour, I’m still alive and today remembered your name.

    As I say my memory is like a thick fog of swirling unconnected things that don’t make sense 99% of the time, and when it finally does a tiny part of the fog lifts, and an image of a fragment of past doings or watchings appears for just a brief moment.

    So this evening the name LaVonne Ellis, came to me out of the befuddled mess that is my mind, and here I am.

    I can only type with one finger now as my left hand has some broken finger joints from when I fellover last week, and my right arm feels like a herd of wilderbeasts trampled upon it on thier way to the watering hole in the evening to avoid the lions, and other creatures with intent on turning them into dinner.

    I’m so impressed that you have finished your new book, well done my dear LaVonne, a big hug and a kiss on the cheek from me.

    What caused your condition you ask? Well I’m going to tell you even if you didn’t, cause thats the person I am…. 🙂

    It seems it was during the operation that my blood pressure dropped so low that my brain has been damaged.

    Nothing can be done to fix it, only time will tell if I regain the umm “faculty?”.

    I have to take a whole bunch of pills for depression and epelepsy (which I did not have before), and they have stopped the nightmares mostly.

    Back to you, LaVonne, I’m sorry to lay my troubles at your feet, I am trying to say I have not been away from your blog because of you, but rather what happened to me, OMG, I sound so needy.

    Any way love your work, love the way you write and it looks like the vandwelling is doing you good.

    Have a fantastic 2017


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