The Oneida Indian Nation’s iconic float, The True Spirit of Thanksgiving, once again will tell its incredible story as it moves through Manhattan today. The Oneida Nation has had a float in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City every year since 2008. The True Spirit of Thanksgiving was the first float to be sponsored by an American Indian nation in the parade’s history. This year marks the 85th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which will be broadcast nationally, per usual, with the parade starting at 9 a.m.
“It is this spirit of peace, thanksgiving and generosity under one of the greatest gifts of the creator, which is the gift of peace to mankind, that marked the first special thanksgiving that we celebrate in our Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float,” stated Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation Representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, in a Oneida Nation press release. “This holiday we celebrate today in America is about the harvest ceremonies of Indian people that were first shared with the newcomers to this Land and the thankful hearts of the Indian people as they shared all of their blessings with the struggling pilgrims.”
According to the Oneida Nation’s website, the float featuring the Tree of Peace will “travel down Central Park, 59th Street, 7th Avenue, 42nd Street, 6th Avenue, and on to Macy’s Herald Square, to spread the message of Thanksgiving to more than 3.5 million spectators, and more than 50 million viewers nationwide on NBC. Sharing the Oneida representation of the Creation Story, the float is a beautifully symbolic depiction of the legendary Nation’s birth.”
New York Yankee’s pitcher, Joba Chamberlain, a descendant of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Winnebago, Nebraska, will be join Haudenosaunee dancers, amongst others, on the Oneida Indian Nation’s glorious float. Halbritter said, “We are honored that Joba Chamberlain, one of only a handful of American Indians in professional sports and a truly outstanding athlete, will join the Oneida Indian Nation in sharing our creation story, and our message of peace and tolerance, with millions of spectators and television viewers on Thanksgiving Day,” He added, “His success and dedication, on and off the field, and his giving nature have made him an inspiration to young people in Indian Country and beyond.”
Chamberlain is recovering from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of the 2011 season. He was off to an impressive start to the season when he was injured, with a 2.83 ERA in 27 relief appearances on the mound. Chamberlain has two world series rings with the Bronx Bombers from their 2007 and 2009 championship season. He also dedicates much of his free time helping charitable causes, and he has earned him numerous awards for his community service. He founded the Dream Big Foundation to encourage young American Indians to participate in sports and to be successful in all facets of life.
The incredible float boasts a 30-foot-tall White Pine “Tree of Peace” which grows from the back of Turtle Island, “and climbs skyward, while its great white roots of peace spread in four directions- north, south, east and west. On top of the Great Tree is an eagle that keeps watch over the roots, symbolizing the constant watch and protection of Peace.”
The float was designed by Macy’s Parade Studio. Last year the float featured country singer Crystal Shawanda, Ojibwe, who sang “Our Country,” a song composed specifically for the parade. The song was made available through the Apple I-Tunes store with a portion of the proceeds going toward HELP USA and the American Indian Empowerment Fund.
A description of the story the float tells from the Oneida Indian Nation’s site explains it beautifully: “A Depiction of the Oneida Creation Story — The Oneida Creation Story tells of Sky Woman, who came to rest on Turtle’s back, which the other animals had covered with soil from beneath the sea. Thus living things may always find nourishment from the soil, for it springs from Mother Earth. On the Turtle’s back (known as Turtle Island) stands a White Pine Tree. The roots that spread out from the tree are called the Great Roots of Peace, and they spread in the four directions: one to the north, one to the south, one to the east, and one to the west. On top of this Great Tree is placed an Eagle. The Eagle keeps a watchful eye on the roots and if any danger approaches, he will scream loudly, sounding the alarm and all the Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy will at once come to the defense and rescue. This symbolizes that everyone has the responsibility to protect the peace. The Creation Story is the oldest tradition of the Oneida People.”
Here’s footage of the incredible float from the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
For more information on the particulars of the Oneida Indian Nation’s float, click here.
For basic information on the parade, click here.
Join the more than 50 million viewers and watch the parade live on your local NBC station, which will be televised form 9 a.m. to noon in all time zones.