OKC VeloCity | Red Earth Christmas trees

Red Earth Christmas trees

By Josh Vaughn / Events / December 17, 2018

Some of the ornaments feature tribal elders and historical figures, celebrating each tribes' history and culture.


Treefest features 20 different trees representing the diverse Native cultural
landscape of Oklahoma.

Tucked away in Santa Fe Plaza, nestled snugly between BancFirst Tower and the Skirvin Hotel is a holiday gem that is uniquely Oklahoman. Every year for the last four years the Red Earth Art Center has hosted its exhibit of holiday trees entitled Treefest. Each year the Red Earth Art Center is inundated with a plethora of holiday trees. Well, maybe not quite a plethora, but there are twenty holiday trees displayed, each telling a bit of the story of native peoples in Oklahoma through handmade ornaments and accouterments.

Some of the ornaments feature creative elements celebrating each tribes'
history and culture.

The Red Earth Arts Center strives to tell the story of the Native American people who now call Oklahoma home. With more than 39 Native tribes headquartering in Oklahoma, our state uniquely represents more tribes than any other state. Of those 39 different tribes, seventeen participated in this year’s exhibition. Treefest 2018 features trees from the following tribes: Absentee Shawnee, Caddo, Cherokee, Cheyenne & Arapaho, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Citizen Potawatomi, Comanche, Delaware, Kaw, Osage, Sac & Fox, Seminole, Kiowa, Otoe Missouria, Ponca and Pawnee. There are also trees by the Red Earth docents, a student tree representing the Hopi people, and a tree featuring ornaments created by Oklahoma Native artists.

The gallery at Red Earth Arts Center has a rotating collection of more than 1,000 original pieces of art like this one by Mike Larsen.

Each tree is a masterpiece in itself. Red Earth provides a standard pre-lit tree for the base. It is up to each tribe or group to decide how to decorate their tree. Some are curated by museums, others have elected to have their elders take up the tree trimming responsibilities, then there are those who have organizations within their tribe that take up the mantle of ornamentation, and yet others who let their youth fabricate the festive furbelowments. It is needless to say that each tree exudes its own creative expression telling the specific story of each of its people.

Sac and Fox sock monkey tree makes a word play on the
phonetic pronunciation of Sac.

From the historical to the humorous, the trees vary in composition. There is the Cherokee tree standing proudly adorned with a turban, celebrating Sequoyah and his invention of the Cherokee written alphabet. The Sac (pronounced like the word “sock”) & Fox tribe chose to make a play on words and have made their tree a playful habitat for various “sock” monkeys. Still, others use photos encapsulated in clear ornaments to remember heroes and historical figures who have helped make their people great. No matter the tribe, each tree stands as a beautiful expression of their culture and creativity.


Children can use the cornhusk dolls adorning one of the
trees for inspiration when making their own.

During Treefest, the Red Earth Art Center hosts groups of students in the gallery. Visiting children get to go on a scavenger hunt. They are provided with a list of items to find that are hidden on different trees throughout the space. From there they must scour each tree and the museum info cards that accompany each one to find the items on their list. With much wonderment and excitement, the children discover that along the way they are learning about Native Peoples and their impact on our community here in Oklahoma. Visiting groups also get to make their own cornhusk dolls. For some native cultures, corn husk dolls were the primary toy of their youth. These dolls represent youthful reflection and educate the next generation about Native Americans traditions.

Treefest is not only a uniquely Oklahoman holiday experience but it is also a great way to learn about Native heritage.

The Red Earth Art Center’s Treefest is one of the most uniquely Oklahoman holiday experiences to be had in OKC. Lona Barrick, president of the Red Earth board of directors says of Treefest, “Red Earth Treefest appeals to not only little children, but the child in all of us, and we’re happy to offer our event as a gift to the people of Oklahoma.” Red Earth Treefest is presented from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Nov. 19, 2018, through Jan. 4, 2019. The Red Earth Arts Center is located at 6 Santa Fe Plaza in downtown Oklahoma City. Check out www.redearth.org for more details.

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