Unthanksgiving returns as an in-person celebration of Indigenous resistance on Alcatraz Island

Unthanksgiving, the annual event marking Indigenous resistance on Alcatraz Island, will look much more like it did in years past now that more tickets will be made available for in-person attendance. The sunrise ceremony enters its 47th year this year, with more than 5,000 attendees expected compared to the 70 or so able to attend last year. The event was live-streamed to accommodate limited ticket availability due to the pandemic. Organizers are keeping that element, especially for the sake of ensuring Indigenous folks stay safe as the pandemic continues. Indigenous communities are unfortunately all too familiar with pandemics, and COVID-19 has even shortened life expectancies and hit tribes especially hard. The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), which organizes the event, will be streaming it on the morning of Nov. 24th on its Facebook page. Berkeley-based community radio station KPFA will also be broadcasting proceedings. This year’s event is expected to include prayers, singing, dancing from Round Valley Indian Tribes, actions honoring Native Hawaiian speakers, and expressing solidarity with Palestinians. There will also be a segment dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women—an ongoing crisis long neglected by the mainstream media that has been spotlighted primarily by Indigenous filmmakers and activists. “This is a continuing movement to recognize the Indigenous people of California that were almost invisible at first,” IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen told the San Francisco Examiner. “This is a chance to highlight truth in history and validate the reality of Indigenous peoples’ experience of genocide here. It’s a chance to affirm our unity.” The event begins at 5:30AM PT and will run until 8AM PT. It honors the 89 Indigenous activists who, in 1969, occupied the island known as Yelamu on Ohlone Territory for 19 months. Activists did so to raise awareness about historical inequities and continue fighting for Indigenous rights. Their proclamation is a powerful reminder of the importance of Indigenous sovereignty long before the landback movement even came into being. YouTube Video In addition to Unthanksgiving, many Indigenous folks mark Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning in recognition of the suffering and outright genocide of Indigenous peoples at the hand of colonialists. It’s important to be realistic about the U.S.’s history as well as the history of many other First Nation and Indigenous tribes that have faced centuries of indignities. So too is it important to recognize the strength in ongoing resistance to the systems of oppression still in place today.

Unthanksgiving returns as an in-person celebration of Indigenous resistance on Alcatraz Island

Unthanksgiving, the annual event marking Indigenous resistance on Alcatraz Island, will look much more like it did in years past now that more tickets will be made available for in-person attendance. The sunrise ceremony enters its 47th year this year, with more than 5,000 attendees expected compared to the 70 or so able to attend last year. The event was live-streamed to accommodate limited ticket availability due to the pandemic. Organizers are keeping that element, especially for the sake of ensuring Indigenous folks stay safe as the pandemic continues. Indigenous communities are unfortunately all too familiar with pandemics, and COVID-19 has even shortened life expectancies and hit tribes especially hard.

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), which organizes the event, will be streaming it on the morning of Nov. 24th on its Facebook page. Berkeley-based community radio station KPFA will also be broadcasting proceedings. This year’s event is expected to include prayers, singing, dancing from Round Valley Indian Tribes, actions honoring Native Hawaiian speakers, and expressing solidarity with Palestinians. There will also be a segment dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women—an ongoing crisis long neglected by the mainstream media that has been spotlighted primarily by Indigenous filmmakers and activists.

“This is a continuing movement to recognize the Indigenous people of California that were almost invisible at first,” IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen told the San Francisco Examiner. “This is a chance to highlight truth in history and validate the reality of Indigenous peoples’ experience of genocide here. It’s a chance to affirm our unity.” The event begins at 5:30AM PT and will run until 8AM PT.

It honors the 89 Indigenous activists who, in 1969, occupied the island known as Yelamu on Ohlone Territory for 19 months. Activists did so to raise awareness about historical inequities and continue fighting for Indigenous rights. Their proclamation is a powerful reminder of the importance of Indigenous sovereignty long before the landback movement even came into being.

In addition to Unthanksgiving, many Indigenous folks mark Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning in recognition of the suffering and outright genocide of Indigenous peoples at the hand of colonialists. It’s important to be realistic about the U.S.’s history as well as the history of many other First Nation and Indigenous tribes that have faced centuries of indignities. So too is it important to recognize the strength in ongoing resistance to the systems of oppression still in place today.