Every Thanksgiving just before sunrise, several hundred people gather on Alcatraz for the Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony to remember the true story of Thanksgiving -- not the one about pilgrims and turkeys. And with this year's introduction of a permanent exhibit on American Indian activism on Alcatraz, Thursday's ceremony may be even more monumental.
Participants have gathered on the island for the ceremony since 1975 to protest the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States.
"But this was not a Thanksgiving declared as we all learned in school because the pilgrims and the Indians sat down for a beautiful feast of traditional foods from this land that we gave the world," said an organizer over a loudspeaker at the 2010 ceremony. "No this day was declared the first Thanksgiving to give thanks for a massacre by those settlers against the Pequot Indian people. 700 unarmed men, women and children were killed during their green corn ceremony. [...] We're here to remember those peoples that were sacrificed and ask that those leaders -- like the one that declared Thanksgiving day and continue it as a holiday in this country -- that they remember." . . continue reading >>
The event is designed to commemorate the survival of Native American peoples following the settlement of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, which led to enormous losses among Indians from disease, warfare and social disruption. Organizers want it to serve in contrast to the traditional American Thanksgiving story in which the Pilgrims amicably shared a meal with Native Americans.
In 1969, a number of Native American members of the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement group Indians of All Tribes (IAT) occupied the island of Alcatraz, under the terms the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that allocated surplus government land to Native Americans. The occupation lasted for 19 months, from November 20, 1969, to June 11, 1971. They were visited by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who, inspired by the occupation, led other protests, their first on Thanksgiving in 1970 when they painted Plymouth Rock red. The latter protest went on to continue as the National Day of Mourning. The US government ended the Alcatraz occupation with force. During the occupation, hundreds of Native Americans joined the movement to speak out for their rights. This was part of a heavy period of Indian activism and protest; at a time when the civil rights movement in the United States amongst minorities was at a height.
Every year on the United States Thanksgiving holiday in November, several thousand indigenous people and spectators travel to Alcatraz Island. Groups dance before sunrise, to honor their ancestors; while other groups demonstrate their cultures and heritage in other ways and speak out for the rights of their people. The celebration is open to the public. (Source: Wikipedia)