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Red Earth's Treefest expands in its second year

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When decking halls, the main focal point is often the Christmas tree. Whether it’s traditional or trendy, real or fabulously fake, the holiday tree epitomizes the spirit and character of its owner.

Red Earth, Inc. once again puts its own trimmings on display with a Native American twist. This year, it hosts its second Treefest in downtown Oklahoma City through Jan. 13.

The tradition began last year with five trees decorated by five Oklahoma Native tribes. The festival has expanded and now features even more trees beautifully decorated in the spirit of the season.

“The response we received from the community was unbelievable,” said Eric Oesch, Red Earth, Inc. co-director and director of communications. “Guests from throughout the state came to the Red Earth Art Center to see our Christmas trees. We had many homeschoolers, senior groups and the response from the tribal community was very strong. That event was so successful, we decided to triple the size for our 2016 event, and today, we’re featuring 18 Christmas trees.”

Visit any department store and you’ll see traditional red and green glass ornaments. Themes range from barefoot surfing Santas to bandana-wearing cowboy elves.

Not so at Treefest, where Native ornaments are all handmade, each different and unique and representing the culture of those who made them.

“Oklahoma has 39 tribal headquarters located within its borders, more than any other state in the United States,” Oesch said. “Yet only three tribes are actually from Oklahoma. The rest were relocated here from other parts of America. Oklahoma’s tribes have histories that go back to the Florida Everglades, the Great Lakes regions, Smokey Mountains, the bayous of Mississippi, New Mexico and even California.”

Because of that, Oesch said the cultures of Oklahoma tribes are some of the most diverse of all Native nations.

Red Earth Treefest decorations reflect that diversity. He said Oklahoma tribes work hard to protect and sustain their culture and share it with others.

Decorating the trees takes a while, and volunteers began hanging ornaments in October. It also takes a while to make all those ornaments.

“Some of the tribal groups have been working on ornaments for the Christmas trees since last summer,” Oesch said.

A placard explaining the pieces and how they relate to tribal culture accompany each tree. Some are created by children, Oesch said, and others were made by accomplished tribal artists.

Featured organizations include the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Caddo Nation, Cherokee Nation, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Comanche Nation, Delaware Nation, Hopi Tribe, Kaw Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Sac and Fox Nation, and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

An added benefit to this year’s event is Red Earth’s stay and play package. Red Earth joined several arts organizations to provide discounted rates at the Wyndham Garden Hotel and discounts to see Oklahoma City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s A Christmas Carol. The package also includes $250 in coupons to The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City and discounts to area restaurants.

Treefest continues through Jan. 13 at Red Earth Art Center, 6 Santa Fe Plaza. Admission is free 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 17.

Print headline: Fancy firs, A Red Earth event features 18 holiday trees decorated by members of Oklahoma’s 39 Native American tribes. 

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