By Alaina Potrikus
This year’s float will include a choir led by Grammy-winning Native American artist Thirza Defoe, who will perform “The Tree of Life.”
Representatives from more than one dozen Indian nations from across the country will accompany the nation’s “True Spirit of Thanksgiving” float, which features a 30-foot-tall White Pine "Tree of Peace," which sprouts from the back of "Turtle Island," which symbolizes Mother Earth.
The nation was the first native tribe to have a float in the annual parade, which draws more than three million spectators along the parade route and attracts more than 50 million television viewers nationwide.
Natives From Across the Americas Will Participate in Today’s 86th Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
Heading up the all Native choir will be Grammy-winning Native American artist Thirza Defoe. Defoe is currently attending the New York University Fellow Graduate of Music and Song Writing Program and spent countless hours in the studio composing the song the choir will be singing called “Tree of Life” which was especially written for this year’s event. “I wrote the song with all people in mind not just from my own perspective, it joyously celebrates peace, love and giving thanks,” says Defoe. “I feel that Native participation in the parade can begin to bring about new ideas of Thanksgiving and possibly reinvent the stereotyped images Americans have of the holiday.” Choir members hope to show the public that native people are still here, alive and flourishing in present day America. The float will also show them how very different Native Americans are, touching on the fact that so many tribes are represented in this year’s parade.
‘The True Spirit of Thanksgiving,’ the Oneida Nation’s Macy’s Parade Float, Captivates the Crowds
For the fifth straight year Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter lead the tribes float accompanied by 12 Native American representatives, some from as far away as California. The goal of the Oneida Nations' participation in the parade is to combat the stereotyped images created by the media and create a positive and accurate portrayal of who Indian people are today. “We want to the public to see the very spirit of Native people and how the tradition and culture of our ancestors inspired the very first Thanksgiving” said Halbritter. I asked the tribal representative how he feels about the fact that many Native Americans chose to protest the holiday, his reply was a positive one “Native people certainly have a great many issues to address and need to come a lot further in our struggles but I think there is a time and place and right now I think is a time when the ceremonies of thanksgiving and gratitude to the creator for all we have is celebrated, we must remember the many blessings we have and we do have many."