The 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be remembered as the year of Native Pride. Three different Native American groups were highlighted in this year’s festivities. Returning for the fifth year in a row, the Oneida Indian Nation float called “The True Spirit of Thanksgiving” shared the parade route with the world renowned Native Pride Dancers from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the Cherokee Youth Choir from Telliquah, Oklahoma.
This was the first time Macy’s hosted more than one Native American group in its parade and for many Native participants, the general feeling was that this is the beginning of something exciting for American Indian people.
“I think this is a great time to share who we are,” said Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO. “It’s important for America to see who the real Indian people are. We are not mascots; we’re not stereotypes. We want a more accurate image of who we are and what our part in history has been.”
Temperatures were below freezing, but people’s spirits were upbeat. “We are pumped,” said Larry Yazzie, founder of the Native Pride Dance troupe. “We are excited to represent all Native Americans across Turtle Island. We have 10 champion fancy dancers with us today.”
As the dancers stopped in front of the Macy’s store on 34th Street to perform, the crowd cheered for 10 world champion fancy dancers all moving as one. The high-energy pow wow beats left the audience wanting more.
Further down the parade route, on the Cornacopia float, 27 members of the Cherokee Youth Choir performed songs in their traditional language. Kathy Sierra, who is the language specialist and coordinator of the choir, said, “We are so honored to be part of this year’s event. We are glad Macy’s chose us along with the other Indian groups to represent Native people. We need to be exposed to America, so they can learn who we are.”
For many Native people, Thanksgiving is a day of protest. Thousands of Native people attended a sunrise ceremony on Alcatraz Island inSan Francisco Bay area and many of the Wampanoags on Cape Cod fast in remembrance of their ancestors who first met the pilgrims.
“There is definitely much history and evidence of the tragic circumstances that happened to Indian people after the first Thanksgiving. But, I do think it is a good thing when we take a certain time of the year to give thanks for our blessings. We are reminded there is a future in front of us, and that future belongs to our children. Giving thanks is part of our tradition and the foundation of Indian people from harvest ceremonies. Giving thanks will always be a vital part of Indian Country.”
The first Thanksgiving was created by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. He was not thinking about the Pilgrims or Wampanoags; he was thinking about his country, which was divided by the Civil War. He designated the last Thursday in November for giving thanks.