Three weeks before the 73-foot Engleman Spruce Christmas tree was officially lit Tuesday on the U.S. Capitol lawn, it stood atop Ute Mountain in Colorado, where the Ute Native American tribe has lived for some 1500 years.
Bradley W. Hight, vice-chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council, told Whispers this particular tree was chosen because it was the "tallest and most beautiful looking tree in the forest." A tree taken from a national forest has adorned the Capitol lawn for the last 50 years.
Hight says his tribe, which sees trees as a source of strength, medicine, food, and shelter, decided to bless this spruce through a special ceremony before cutting it down. "But I can't talk to you about that," he says. "It's kind of secret because it only belongs to us. The Ute tribe are the only ones who know... not even the Secret Service knows."
Hight will only say that the ceremony was done "the Sundance way," or through a spiritual ceremony that honors all living things.
Gary Hayes, the chairman of the tribal council, hopes the blessed tree will help bring concord to Washington.
"They talk about compromise being a bad word, especially with what we're going through," said Hayes, just minutes after House Speaker John Boehner officially lit the tree. Boehner is currently leading heated negotiations with the White House to avert the impending the fiscal cliff. "With the blessing of the tribes from Colorado," said Hayes, "we hope this tree will bring unity."