Authors: Faren Rajkumar @faren_wanderer ;
Kimberly Whitewater is an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and does vanlife part-time. Her Ho-Chunk name is Wakjexiwįga, which means Water Spirit Woman. She comes from the Water Spirit Clan.
1. Tell us about your vanlife journey?
“I’ve been talking about vanlife since before it was heard of. This year, because of covid I moved in with a friend so I wasn’t alone the entire winter, put more money away and began looking for my van. I have a 2015 Ram Promaster 2500. It was my dream and I made it happen. I work for my tribes social services department. I was working remotely when I bought the van at the beginning of 2021, but as soon as I got everything ready to hit the road, I was called back to the office so I’ve been part timing vanlife when I can.”
2. How do you commit to minimizing your negative impact on the Earth as a “traveler”, land steward, or adventurer, and if applicable, through your business
“I am entirely solar powered. I don’t even have a way to plug in and I still don’t know much about solar power. It’s been quite the learning experience. I don’t use any unsafe chemicals, or carry anything disposable with me in the van. I do my best to leave things as I found them, or sometimes better than I found them since I have a habit of collecting others litter.”
3. How important is diverse representation in road travel/vanlife & the outdoors to you, and why?
“Diverse representation needs to be everywhere especially in these times. People tend to forget that if you’re not indigenous to these lands your ancestors were all immigrants. People need to stop being labeled by anything other than who they are based on what those who judge are used to seeing. Not all African Americans live in the inner cities. Not all Natives live on a reservation. My tribe doesn’t even have a reservation. We have trust lands throughout the state of Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Just a couple examples. And if people understood that natives still exist just as anyone in this world maybe they’d understand why native mascots are offensive, or why it’s not okay to put on a headdress for Halloween, or at some annual festival. Hello, we’re still here people. We get recognized the least as a people of this country. It’s 2021, not recognizing us, our history or the resilience of our ancestors is not okay.”
4. What does this community mean to you?
“It means safety, representation, education, and just pure joy to see others living their best lives. Doing so while making the world more aware of our existence and also our similarities as humans. (We tend to only ever focus on the differences.)”
5. How do you practice joy while on the road?
“I always try to be mindful, in the moment as much as I can so I don’t miss the joy in the moments I’m having. Be in the now and learn to enjoy your own company. I find myself to be quite comical….yes, I make myself laugh often.”
6. Any thoughts you’d like to express to BIPOC allies?
“We appreciate your voice, your empathy, and your strength.
Pinagigi (you did good for me).”
7. Anything else you want to share with the community? * Bonus if you can share something about your experience as a BIPOC or LGBTQ+ in the outdoors or white-washed spaces, going beyond “leave no trace”, respecting Indigenous lands, etc. But feel free to write anything!
“I go into so many places and see little “Indian” toy sets, or dream catchers made in China among so many other things. Cultural appropriation is a big thing with native people. You see it everywhere but don’t care to learn the true history of this country. If you go to native lands find places you can purchase and support the local native artists. Let’s show more cultural appreciation!”