An 'opportunity to showcase our community': Shiprock welcomes U.S. Capitol Christmas tree

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

SHIPROCK — When Lynel Jim signed a banner hanging from the side of the display case holding the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, he made sure his signature was noticeable.

Jim embellished the large print with stars while his girlfriend, Becky Manuelito, captured the moment with her phone's camera.

"That's my personality. … If you want to be seen, you want to be seen," Jim said about making his name standout from the thousands on three banners that go with the tree.

The couple were among hundreds of residents to visit the 60-foot blue spruce when it stopped at Shiprock High School on Nov. 13.

The visit was part of the tree's nationwide tour by semitrailer from the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico, where it was harvested on Nov. 6, to its arrival in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 25. It will be situated on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Throughout its travel, the tree will be welcomed in community events. In Shiprock, it was greeted in a program arranged by the Central Consolidated School District that included a performance by the Shiprock High School band and speeches from school board members, school officials and special guests.

On the other side of the semitrailer, Daniel Jones snapped a photo of his signature.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase our community and our state and be represented in the U.S. capital," said Jones, a counselor at the high school.

The tree also visited Central Primary elementary school in Bloomfield on Nov. 13.

"The tree is from public land within the state. So, it belongs to everybody and we felt it was important to reach as many communities as possible," Erin Fryer, acting public affairs officer for the Carson National Forest, said about the tour.

Some of the many hand painted ornaments are displayed on the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree in Shiprock on Nov. 13, 2019.

Dottie Lizer, Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer's wife, expressed approval of including tribal communities on the itinerary.

The tree stopped in Taos Pueblo and in the Jicarilla Apache Nation on Nov. 12 and will visit the Mescalero Apache Tribe on Nov. 15.

"To see this come through Navajo is great," Lizer said.

This is the second time the Carson National Forest supplied the Christmas tree – also called "The People's Tree" – and it is the third selected from New Mexico. In 2005, an Engelmann spruce came from the Santa Fe National Forest.

Ten thousand ornaments were made by students and community members in the state to decorate the tree and its 70 companion trees.

Among those who provided ornaments was third grade students in Abby Rockefeller's class at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School.

An attendee to the event to welcome the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree to Shiprock High School signs his name on a banner covering the tree on Nov. 13, 2019.

"For our students, I hope this once in a lifetime opportunity will become a cherished memory," Rockefeller said.

Shiprock High Principal John Tohtsoni explained that in Navajo teachings, a tree is held in high reverence because it symbolizes life and a connection to the deities.

"As this Christmas tree makes its journey to the nation's capital, we acknowledge that it is more than just a tree. We acknowledge its sacredness, we acknowledge the hope that it carries for the past, the present and the future of all our people in this great nation," Tohtsoni said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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U.S. Forest Service rangers Juan Jauregui, left, and Erica Enjady, right, clean the display windows surrounding the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree in the parking lot of Shiprock High School in Shiprock on Nov. 13, 2019.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree in its display case in the parking lot of Shiprock High School in Shiprock on Nov. 13, 2019.