Oklahoma’s Native American tribes bless Red Earth trees with their own culture

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- The idea may celebrate the birth of Christ, but with a Christmas tree individual families get to tell their own holiday story.

"We like that," says Red Earth Museum and Gallery manager Eric Oesch. "because everybody loves Christmas trees."

Oesch says it's no different with each of Oklahoma's 39 Indian tribes. 15 of them came forward this year with their own very different tribal trees.

"The ornaments were hand-made to depict the specific culture of the tribes represented," he says.

The Osage tree is decorated with buckets that represent the containers of water boys carry to ceremonial dancers.
The Seminole Nation, originally from Florida, put a canoe under their tree.

"The guy in the canoe is a GI Joe," laughs Eric. "I love it."

The Muscogee Creek Nation colors are red, yellow and white.

The Kaw Tribe decorated their tree with wind chimes.

"Because they have always been referred to as The Wind People," adds Oesch.

Cherokee, Absentee Shawnee, Cheyenne-Arapaho; a total of 15 tribes came in with decorations that revealed a little bit of each culture.

The variety surprised even the curators.

"It just opens up Oklahoma tribal history and how different they are," he says.

From Chickasaw hand painted gourds to bead work to pictures of past leaders the ornaments are all hand-made or hand-woven, every piece means something.

The first Europeans mistook the notion Delaware wampum as something like an exchange of currency.

The Delaware Tribe of Manhattan Island thought of the idea as more of an exchange of gifts.

The shell of an idea that finds itself on a tribal tree in Oklahoma City and a better way to look at Christmas,not as a sale but as a gift itself.

The Red Earth Museum's Tree Fest continues through January 15, 2017.

Many of the ornaments are offered for sale.

A Tree Fest open house is scheduled for December 3.

For more information go to http://www.redearth.org

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