Snoqualmie tribe celebrates role in national tree
December 26, 2013
By Sherry Grindeland
Sharon Frelinger and the Snoqualmie Tribal Council don’t need a road map to track the route of the spruce tree that was trucked from Washington State to Washington, D.C.
They just need to look at the postmarks on the mail they received.
Native American elders from across the country sent thank you notes to the Snoqualmie in appreciation for their sponsorship of the National Christmas Tree.
Frelinger read aloud from one note during a tree dedication ceremony Dec. 21. More than a dozen tribal members gathered in front of the Snoqualmie Casino to commemorate their participation in the annual holiday tradition of placing a National Christmas tree on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Their celebration featured the acquisition of a smaller version of the national tree. They blessed a 12-foot tall Engelmann spruce that will be planted on a berm above the Casino’s main driveway. A commemorative engraved rock will be installed at the base of the tree.
“We felt it was a good thing to sponsor the tree because it brings out families,” Frelinger, a council leader said. “Even though our ceremonies may be different, we will all share memories of this.”
She added that this is the first time the U.S. Capitol tree has been tribal sponsored and with a bit of awe, told the gathering, “we’re proud that it is our little tribe here that did it.”
The tradition of an outdoor Christmas tree, also known as The People’s Tree, in Washington, D.C. began in 1964 when a member of Congress set up one. The U.S. Forest Service took over in 1970 and, along with the nonprofit group Choose Outdoors, oversee the annual event.
Sponsors underwrite transportation and installation costs. The Snoqualmie Tribe was one of the major contributors, donating $75,000.
This year’s tree came from the Colville National Forest in Eastern Washington.
Frelinger was one of about 350 people who went to Colville Forest to select and bless the tree before it was cut and loaded on a 100-foot long truck for the 5,000-mile (taking the scenic route) journey to the East Coast.
“Trees are precious to us,” she said. “They sustain our way of life.”
The tree was wrapped in a tarp emblazoned with the Snoqualmie Tribe logo as well as other sponsors. The truck makes multiple stops en route to Washington D.C. and Native American tribes across the country held ceremonies when it passed through their territories.
This was just the second time that a Washington state tree was picked. A Silver Fir was harvested from the Olympic National Forest in 2006.
At the local ceremony outside the casino, Linda Sweet Baxter of Kent and her daughter, Lois Sweet Dorman, reverently approached the new tree. After two young women removed a bear skin that covered the commemorative rock, the mother and daughter began the blessing. Participants held their hands, palms up, as the women chanted.
At the end, there was a brief moment of silence.
Then smiles and congratulations. The participants headed indoors, out of the rain, to the casino ballroom for the Snoqualmie Tribe’s annual Christmas party for, as one woman said as she left, more memory building and traditions.