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ALCATRAZ ISLAND - Some 500 American Indians and supporters took three boats to Alcatraz Island early Monday in the morning darkness to participate in a sunrise ceremony to celebrate Indigenous People's Day.
Commemorating 519 years of Resistance to Colonization
Many were dressed in their regalia to celebrate with drumming, dancing, prayers and speeches to commemorate 519 years of resistance to colonization in the Americas.
The event was billed as "Indigenous Peoples Day at Alcatraz Island: Commemorating 519 years of Indigenous Resistance and Honoring Struggles to Protect our Sacred Places."
“We want to educate non-Indian people about the importance of changing this day from Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day,”
stated Bill Means, Oglala Sioux, who remembered being on Alcatraz Island the 1960s. "My father came to this island as early as 1964. We kept coming back. One of my sisters stayed here for a long time in 1969."
Sunrise Ceremony to Celebrate Indigenous People's Day
In 1969 there was an occupation of Alcatraz Island by a group of American Indians who went to the island with demands for better education and housing for American Indians. The occupation brought attention to American Indian concerns across the United States and around the world.
Means stressed the struggles that still exist for indigenous peoples because of what governments and corporations are doing to natural resources and to the environment overall.
"We are here to commemorate Indigenous People's Day. We intend to change the Columbus holiday to Indigenous People's Day," declared Tony Gonzales, director of American Indian Movement - West.
"We are here to celebrate what they call Columbus Day, but we choose to call it Indigenous People's Day," said Norman "Wounded Knee" DeOcampo, Miwok.
“They want to continue to desecrate our sacred sites. We ask for support from across this country to protect our sacred sites.”
"It is wonderful to be on the Rock today. All of us as human beings have to work together to make this world a better place," stated Corrina Gould, Ohlone.
posted October 11, 2011 8:20 am edt
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