BRIGHTON — The Brighton community gave a 28-foot nod to Christmas with a tree lighting ceremony and celebration Nov. 30.
The event, a first for Brighton, took place from dusk until about 9 p.m. on the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Harney Pond and Reservation roads.
Brighton Reservation Council Representative and special events coordinator Lewis Gopher was the emcee of the event. It featured a 28-foot Christmas tree from Oregon decorated with about 2,000 lights and ornaments, many made by students from the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School.
The tree was expected to stay lit through the holiday season.
Vendors sold hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, fry bread, popcorn, chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and ribs to hungry Tribal Members and visitors.
The all woman musical group Native Voices sang traditional Christmas songs including Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy and Joy to the World. PECS students also sang Christmas songs like Jingle Bells and Up on the Housetop, directed by PECS teacher Jade Osceola.
When it was dark and time to light the tree, Gopher introduced Jennie Shore to serve as the ceremonial person to turn on the power switch. The crowd of about 200 helped with a countdown from 10.
“We thought about who we wanted to get to light the Christmas tree,” Gopher said. “We looked toward one of the matriarchs in the community – someone that’s served the community for a long time and continues to serve,” he said of Shore.
Shore, of the Otter Clan, was recently named National Indian Education Association Elder of the Year.
“This woman has dedicated her life to wake up every day to work to preserve our way of life,” said Gopher of Shore’s almost 40 years of service. “This woman is a prime example of a Seminole woman and the strength that we have.”
Before Shore was taken to the area where she’d turn on the power switch, she briefly addressed those in attendance.
“I am very happy to have this opportunity to light up your Christmas tree. I feel honored to do this,” she said.
Before the tree was lit, Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. welcomed the crowd to the event.
“I heard a lot of you say we’re a small community, we’re family. Well let’s live it. Don’t talk about it, let’s live it,” Councilman Bowers said. “Make this time be the happiest time of the year. Have a great Christmas, thank you all.”
Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. greeted the crowd after Councilman Bowers.
“Thank you to everyone who was involved in putting this together,” Chairman Osceola said. “It’s good to be part of something like this, a first, lighting a tree up.”
Osceola reflected on the year that was 2018 for the Tribe. He said it had been a “great ride” and that a lot had been accomplished.
“And I appreciate all the support and hope to gain more support. Be safe on your travels wherever they may take you,” he said.
Before the PECS students sang their Christmas songs for the crowd, Brighton Representative Larry Howard took to the stage to share a few words.
“At the end of the day [the holidays are] all about having fun, mutual respect and making sure we take care of all the kids on the Reservation,” he said. “Merry Christmas to everybody.”