ALCATRAZ ISLAND, Calif. -- Before the first light of dawn, Indigenous Peoples from the Americas, in solidarity
with Palestinians, African Americans and others struggling against oppression, climbed the hill once again to offer prayers
at sunrise on Alcatraz Island.
With the first streaks of dawn, the Dry Creek Pomo Traditional Dancers greeted the day,
as about 3,000 people gathered to remember those who have passed on in the struggle for Indigenous rights and called for solidarity
in resistance against colonialism and injustice.
“The strongest prayers are given to the morning star at this
time of day”, said Bill Means, co-founder of the International Indian Treaty Council. IITC and American Indian Contemporary
Arts hosted the 32nd annual Alcatraz island Sunrise Gathering.
Means asked for prayers for the United Nations Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is now being considered by the United Nations. Pointing out that the Declaration
is the result of 22 years of efforts, Means said there are 400 million Indigenous Peoples around the world and 100 million
live in this hemisphere.
“It is now before the United Nations. This is the minimal standard for human rights”,
Means said. “Some of the purest resources and water are on our land.”
Means began by remembering the nineteen
Moqui Hopi who were taken from their homes on the mesas of Arizona and imprisoned at Alcatraz in 1895 for refusing to send
their children to government boarding schools.
“We thank each and every one of you for helping turn a prison
into a sacred site”, he told those gathered.
Stressing the importance of human rights for the original peoples
living along the world’s borders, Means pointed out that Indigenous Peoples and Palestinians both live with imposed
Means introduced the Palestinian performers, Al-Juthoor (The Roots) Arabic Folkloric Dancers.
are here to show solidarity with our Indigenous Peoples”, said Wael, Palestinian member of the group.
Lumumba of the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party attracted high praise from the crowd when he said, “We are fighting
against the common devil – George Bush.”
Lumumba thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for his recent
“He said it so elegantly, ‘Bush is the Devil!”
“Bush is not our president,”
Lumumba told the crowd.
Welcoming Chavez to return, Lumumba said New York does not belong to George Bush; New York
belongs to the Iroquois and other Indigenous Peoples.
Lumumba said Chavez, too, has Indigenous blood, while Bush represents
the colonialism of the system oppressing the people for the past 500 years.
People around the world are now marching
in solidarity with Indian people, he said. Praising the inspiration of the virtue of patience shown by Indian people, Lumumba
said, “Patience is a virtue of a revolution.
“We want to express our gratitude for all Indigenous Peoples.”
remembering those who have given their lives in the struggle for Indian rights, said, “This struggle does not come without
Among the speakers was one from Ireland who called for justice for Leonard Peltier. Another urged prayer
and support for the ongoing struggle for human rights in Oaxaca, Mexico. In Spanish and English, the song,
Toward the Sun”, was offered for the resistance movement in Oaxaca, Chiapas and throughout the Americas. The Traditional
Azteca Danzantes offered a powerful dance tribute.
Means remembered Richard Oakes, leader of the occupation of Alcatraz
in November of 1969; Ingrid Washinawatok, IITC member killed in Colombia and Mickey Gimmell, of the Pit River and Wintu Nations
and IITC board member, and a long list of others, beginning with Mad Bear Anderson, who spent their lives in service and sacrifice.
Simmons, Choctaw, member of the staff of the International Indian Treaty Council in San Francisco, said the sunrise prayer
service on Alcatraz Island was revived in 1974, after the Lakota stand at Wounded Knee, S.D., and is now held annually.
said the National Park Service on Alcatraz Island has recognized the stand taken here by Indians of All Tribes and the outcome.
On the National Park Service website, there is a tribute to “We hold the Rock.”
“The success or failure
of the occupation should not be judged by whether the demands of the occupiers were realized. The underlying goals of the
Indians on Alcatraz were to awaken the American public to the reality of the plight of the first Americans and to assert the
need for Indian self-determination. As a result of the occupation, either directly or indirectly, the official government
policy of termination of Indian tribes was ended and a policy of Indian self-determination became the official U.S. government
“During the period the occupiers were on Alcatraz Island, President Nixon returned Blue Lake and 48,000
acres of land to the Taos Indians. Occupied lands near Davis, California, would become home to a Native American university.
The occupation of Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington, D.C. would lead to the hiring of Native American's to work
in the federal agency that had such a great effect on their lives.
“Alcatraz may have been lost, but the occupation
gave birth to a political movement which continues to today.”
On this day, while Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving,
American Indians and those in solidarity with them, rose at 2 or 3 a.m., and crossed the bay on ferryboats beginning at 4:30
a.m. The thousands who came received the gift of blessings and the beauty of the sunrise, joined by a chorus of seagulls.
Following the ceremony, the Oakland Intertribal Indian Center served turkey and all the trimmings.
Indian Treaty Council said Alcatraz, “The ROCK,” is a symbol of resistance and self-determination for Indigenous
Peoples of North America since the take-over of Alcatraz Island in November 1969 by Indian youths and students, led by San
Francisco State University activist Richard Oakes. Mickey Gemmill, John White Fox, Lenny Foster and many others were with
“Alcatraz continues to call us back for spiritual and revolutionary inspiration and to pray for unity
and strength among Native American communities, our friends and supporters”, IITC said.
“This year is a
special commemoration and tribute to our good friend, brother in struggle, land and fishing rights leader, member of Pitt
River and Wintu Nations of Northern California, IITC Board of Directors member and former Tribal Chairman Mickey Gimmell.
will be missed but not forgotten. A more recent passing is that of John White Fox, a student, activist, photographer, and
veteran of Wounded Knee, Alcatraz and the Longest Walk. His spirit and courage will be long remembered.”
International Indian Treaty Council said this day, the last Thursday in November, was a day to remember truth, but not pitiful
“The 2006 gathering at Alcatraz Island brings us all back to what America talks about during
this time each year when immigrant, undocumented, pitiful, illegal alien pilgrims and Indians sat down together in peace to
praise another season of Thanksgiving. Nothing can be further from the truth.”
& International Report
Please continue for a photo of Aztec Dancers
at Alcatraz and then,
also see:Thanksgiving Day 2006 http://www.unobserver.com/index.php?pagina=layout5.php&id=2851&blz=1
International Indian Treaty Council and American
Indian Contemporary Arts
Presents the 32nd Annual Alcatraz Island Sunrise Gathering
“American Indian Thanksgiving
Day” November 23rd, 2006
International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) http://www.treatycouncil.org
American Indian Movement http://www.aimovement.org
Indigenous Peoples Literature http://www.indigenouspeople.net
'My Life Is My Sun Dance': Prison Writings of LEONARD PELTIER
Photos of The Longest Walk, 1978 http://www.sacredrun.org/archives/longwalk/walk.html
Elisa Burchett asks,
Group Proposal Derail Entire Indigenous Declaration Process?’