This is the first time the parade has paid respects to Indigenous folks, marking a milestone in history.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade took place on Thanksgiving Day. However, there were some differences this year. Members of the parade, of course, followed new social distancing protocols and other health measures, but there was another notable introduction to the yearly tradition: a land acknowledgement. This is a formal statement made at the beginning of a public event in order to remind attendees that the event in question is taking place on land originally inhabited by or belonging to Indigenous people. Additionally, there was a traditional rattle song performance as well as a blessing honoring people of Native American tribes historically based in the Northeast, CNN reports.
The land acknowledgement, made by Ryan Opalanietet Pierce (Lenape) and Joan Henry (Tsalagi/'Nde/Arawaka), noted that the parade took place on the Lenape territory of Manahatta. An honoring in Wampanoag tribal members and language keepers Annawon and Brian Weeden, in their mother tongue Wôpanâôt8âôk, followed. This is where the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade occurs every single year, but yesterday was the first time such an acknowledgment was made. It was a particularly historic moment as the Wampanoag tribe, known as The People of the First Light, have inhabited the Eastern coast of present-day Massachusetts for over 12,000 years. Sadly, it has been 150 years since colonization and forced assimilation silenced the Wampanoag language.
The language has, nonetheless, been revived through historically written documents by the Wampanoag people. Yesterday's land acknowledgment was evidence of that. A blessing written and shared with us by Siobhan Brown of the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project followed. According to a news release from Indigenous Direction, a firm that consults on Indigenous cultural protocols in theatre and film and collaborated on the segment, the blessing roughly translates to: "Creator and Ancestors, we honor you for all things. We honor the Lenape people of Manahatta. We honor all our relations because, long ago, we were here. Now we are here and we will always be here. And so it is."
Following the parade, the official Macy's Twitter page posted, "Did you catch the performance of the Wampanoag Language Blessing?" The tweet included a photo of one of the participants. Without a doubt, these parts of the parade were an unforgettable highlight of this year's procession. This is particularly true as a campaign to return Indigenous lands to their rightful owners gains momentum. While the Black Lives Matter movement grows stronger, simultaneously, the United States grapples with the crimes it has committed against Native American communities.