fbpx
facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1
 

Santa wore his long grey braids and traditional red robe-turned-regalia over the weekend, greeting children and adults alike at the newly opened First Americans Museum in the heart of Oklahoma City. Behind him was a digital screen showing a downpouring of snow over his sleigh, pulled by eight bison.

“Kids were really excited to see a Santa Claus that might look like their uncle,” First Americans Museum spokesperson, Ginny Underwood (Comanche), told Native News Online.“The premise is: representation matters. We wanted to create a Santa Claus that our Indigenous folks could identify with, and that other people (could) get an understanding of our diversity and our take on what a Santa Claus might look like.”

The event was free and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, and drew far more adults to snap a photo with Santa than it did children. On Saturday, 75 children—many dressed in their tribe’s traditional regalia— and more than double the amount of adults took their photos with Indigneous Santa.

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

According to Underwood, it was due to Santa’s—or museum cultural ambassador Ace Greenwood (Chickasaw)—drum playing and song.

“It was really funny because…when he started singing the adults would come running,” she said. She said that many elders remarked afterwards that it was the first Native Santa they’d ever seen.

The museum officially opened Sept. 18 with a mission to highlight the stories of all 39 tribes in Oklahoma today. Underwood said the all-Native curatorial team guides visitors through the museum’s 29 interactive exhibits in first person, highlighting origin stories to Indian removal to statehood to present day history.

“We give more than 500 years of history and context as part of this Okla Homma [meaning "red people" in Choctaw] exhibition, but we also move into contemporary today.  We want people to walk away from a museum understanding that we have this shared history and it's American history, but we're still contributing and practicing our cultures today.”

In that way, Underwood said, Indigneous Santa was no different than any of the museum’s exhibits.

“Santa is just one of those types of experiences where we had the opportunity to educate, and then also create a new perspective on what (Santa) could be for Indigneous peoples.”

More Stories Like This

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to Host Hearing on Public Safety in Indian Country
Native Bidaské with Kevin Sharp on Leonard Peltier’s Upcoming Parole Hearing
Senate Subcommittee to Hear Testimony on President Biden’s FY Budget for Indian Programs on Thursday
Native News Weekly (May 19, 2024): D.C. Briefs
Native Artist and Former Cultural Advisor to the Chicago Blackhawks Sues Team for Sexual Harassment, Fraud

These stories must be heard.

This May, we are highlighting our coverage of Indian boarding schools and their generational impact on Native families and Native communities. Giving survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories is an important step toward healing — not just because they are speaking, but because they are being heard. Their stories must be heard. Help our efforts to make sure Native stories and Native voices are heard in 2024. Please consider a recurring donation to help fund our ongoing coverage of Indian boarding schools. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Reporter
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.