“The Oneida Indian Nation is honored to be included in the 82nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” said Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and chief executive officer. “American Indians welcomed the first Europeans who came to our homelands in the spirit of thanksgiving, and showed our new neighbors how to adapt to the challenges of our Mother Earth.
“As first Americans, we are most thankful to be included in this premier holiday event because it is a wonderful opportunity to once again share the true spirit of Thanksgiving with America and the millions of people watching this wonderful parade.”
Designed and built by Macy’s Parade Studio, the float will showcase the Nation’s creation story with characters, symbols and performers.
It will depict the tale of Sky Woman who one day came to rest on a turtle’s back, depicted on the float by a giant turtle symbolizing Mother Earth.
A 30-foot-tall white pine tree symbolizing the Tree of Peace grows from the turtle’s back and climbs skyward, while its great white roots of peace spread in four directions—north, south, east and west.
On top of the tree is an eagle that keeps watch over the roots, symbolizing the constant watch and protection of peace. Along for the ride will be Iroquois dancers at each root representing all American Indian people.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be broadcast by NBC from 9 a.m. to noon Thanksgiving Day.
The parade is one more media coup the nation, only 1,000 members strong, has pulled off in recent years. An animated film produced by the Oneidas took top honors at a Hollywood film festival and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The nation has also grabbed the spotlight of being the first tribe to play host to a PGA Tour golf event.
As media audiences become increasingly fragmented, Wrigley said, the Macy's parade remains one of the few ways to reach a mass audience.
"This is one of those rare exceptions where we still are able to get a huge audience in one shot," she said.
With 50 million viewers, the Macy's parade would draw more than double the 19.3 million people who watched last week's highest-rated show, "CSI."
I don't know if the Tree of Peace is part of Oneida tradition, but it's a nice touch. Too often we associate Indians with war, not peace. The Oneidas could've put a cannon on the float to thank their veterans for their "peacekeeping" efforts, but they didn't.
With the possible exception of the bald eagle, this float doesn't seem stereotypical. Which is rather refreshing. Some of the previous floats I reported on--"First Americans" Rose Parade Float Features Giant Headdress and Stereotypes in Rose Parade--were anything but refreshing.
This goes to show what I always say: that people (including Indians) don't have to indulge in stereotypes to get their message across. That Plains Indians in "leathers and feathers" aren't the only way to "honor" Indians. That reality is much more interesting than media-stoked fantasies.