Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
ALCATRAZ ISLAND - Every year since 1975, American Indians have journeyed from the mainland to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay on Thanksgiving Day. They have called the day "Un-Thanksgiving Day" and now "The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony."
Alcatraz Island, More than Suitable
In modern times, Alcatraz Island has become a symbol to American Indians. It is a symbol of both struggle and hope. The affinity American Indians has with Alcatraz Island goes deep.
For years, the island was home to a federal penitentiary there. Called the "Rock," the penitentiary's most famous inmate was notorious gangster Al Capone.
After the prison closed in 1963, American Indians began to petition the federal government to put it into "Indian land."
From November 1969 to July 1971, a group of American Indians took over and occupied Alcatraz Island led by Mohawk, Richard Oakes; Grace Thorpe, Sac and Fox, who was the daughter of Olympic great, Jim Thorpe and Tuscarora medicine man, Mad Bear Anderson. The group was called the Alcatraz Red Power Movement and was also known as the "Indians of All Tribes."
Throughout the occupation, numerous American Indians went to Alcatraz Island to participate in the occupation. Among them, several members of the American Indian Movement, including Dennis Banks, Russell Means, and Clyde Bellecourt, went there. Another iconic name among American Indian leaders who went there was Wilma Mankiller, who became the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
The "Indians of All Tribes" even developed a ten-point proclamation in their hopes to secure the land for Indian land:
We, the native Americans, reclaim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery We feel that this so-called Alcatraz Island is more than suitable for an Indian Reservation, as determined by the white man's own standard. By this we mean that this place resembles most Indian reservations in that:
Further, it would be fitting and symbolic that ships from all over the world, entering the Golden Gate, would first see Indian land, and thus be reminded of the true history of this nation. This tiny island would be a symbol of the great lands once ruled by free and noble Indians.
While the American Indians who occupied Alcatraz Island eventually left, four years later American Indians return every Thanksgiving Day to remember.
Photo credits Christopher Burquez
Arthur Jacobs contributed to this story
posted November 26, 2011 11:30 am est
Thank you for visiting. We are loading the new Native News Network website. Visitors always come first, so if you click on a link only to find the corresponding page is unavailable, please use this link to contact us here ».
Then, tell us how we can help you.
I will contact you personally.