Wake Up and Give Thanks

The graffiti on Alcatraz confronts visitors to this day. “You are on Indian land,” one proclaims. “Custer had it coming,” another reads. That's intimidating stuff, for sure — it remains on the walls of the former federal penitentiary from the 18-month takeover of the island by Native American activists that started in 1969. Remembering the rage behind that occupation, though, is only part of today's Indigenous People's Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering. Thousands of people — including some of those who were there 41 years ago — assemble today to give thanks for their own survival and their spirit of resistance. It's an apt place to look forward as well as back. The occupation is considered to be the beginning of the American Indian activist movement, and it's credited with the eventual change of public policy and the passing of numerous laws aimed at recognizing and assisting indigenous people in the United States. A prayer ritual, drummers, Aztec and Pomo dancers, singer-songwriter Jeremy Goodfeather, and chants are part of the commemoration. “It really is to celebrate the survival of indigenous people,” says Alberto Saldamando, general counsel for the International Indian Treaty Council, which helps organize the event. “Whoever's in solidarity is very much appreciated.” Boats begin departing for the
Thu., Nov. 25, 4:45 a.m., 2010

 
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