Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Return to Alacatraz


With the prayers, blessings and dances of the Shingle Springs Rancheria Miwok, Pomo, Pitt River and Calpullies, the Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering began, after 3,500 people crossed on boats to Alcatraz Island before first light.

With the scent of sage filling the dawn air, the Ohlone People were honored for their long struggle to recover their traditional homelands here and the Pitt River people for their ongoing efforts to protect the sacred water and land in what is now called northern California.

With a roaring fire in the center, the prayers began at first light. Anna Marie Sayers of the Ohlone people was among the Native women honored.

Radley Davis, Pitt River Nation, asked those gathered to greet the rising sun. “Wherever you are at, turn around and greet the sun. It is still coming, when you see it, say ‘hello.’

“Remember each of you is spirit,” Davis said. “Our Creator is a caring Creator, we are all special.”

Davis urged everyone gathered to discover who they are and the reason that they have been brought into life, remembering that life is sacred and all is spirit.

“When you see the sun, wash your body, your spirit, wash your life.” Davis said, “Ask the Great Maker to help you find out about your life.”

The Shellmound walkers, who have been offering prayers at the Shellmounds, asked that others join them in prayer for the ancestors and all Indigenous Peoples. While pointing out the recent oil spill here, they asked to remember the winged-ones, four legged and fishes hurt by the spill. They asked for the cleansing of the San Francisco Bay, while celebrating the survival of Native people.

Bill Means, cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council, said the gathering on Thursday, Nov. 22, is a continuum in the legacy of the people.

“We consider it relighting the fire of Indian survival, Indian resistance here in this hemisphere. To remind people that first of all, John Wayne didn’t kill us all. That we’re still alive, distinct cultures that are thriving here in America.”

Means said the people came today to remember the Hopi imprisoned here at Alcatraz who refused to cut their hair, send their children to US government boarding school or become colonized as US citizens. Nineteen Hopi men from Oraibi returned home to their village in September, 1895, after spending nearly a year imprisoned on Alcatraz Island.

“They brought them here to break their resistance,” Means said.

“The only good Indian was a dead Indian.”

Means pointed out that the first so-called Thanksgiving was a celebration of the murder of the Mashantucket Pequots who greeted the Europeans who came to this land. Now, however, the people can look for inspiration to Indian people like Richard Oakes, among the leaders of the occupation of Alcatraz.

Oakes, Mohawk, brought this message: “Enough is enough!” Means said there is also inspiration in the new leaders of governments in South America, including Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Means, master of ceremonies at the Indigenous Peoples’ Border Summit of the Americas in San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation in November, also remembered the Indigenous Peoples walking and dying at the border of the United States and Mexico.

“All they want is a drink of water,” he said of those walking and dying of dehydration.

Means also remembered Floyd Red Crow Westerman, hospitalized with serious health problems. Means asked that Westerman be remembered in prayers. He said if it is time for Westerman to make the journey, pray for that. But if the Creator wants to leave him here a little longer, Means said that would be good for the people and the struggles that Westerman has spent his life fighting for.

Darrell Standing Elk joined others to lead the AIM Song for Westerman.

Janice Gardipe, Paiute-Shoshone, said there is a great struggle underway to protect Indian homelands from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Western Shoshone territory.

“Where are our warriors,” Gardipe asked, urging American Indians to come and support the struggle to protect the sacred lands.

Munyiga Lumumba, organizer for the All American Peoples’ Revolutionary Party, urged those gathered to reject whatever the capitalist US government and media is telling them. Lumumba urged the crowd to take down the imperialism, including Israel’s action to destroy Palestine. On the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons, he said America has no right, and certainly no moral ground to stand on, to tell the governments of the world what to do.

“The enemy doesn’t lie some of the time, the enemy lies all of the time.”

Joining organizer Jimbo Simmons of the International Indian Treaty Council, Tony Gonzales said it was reassuring to know that future generations of Indian people will be assured because of the actions here in the occupation of Alcatraz Island, which began in 1969.

Bringing to a conclusion the ceremony, on the day when others in America celebrate the Thanksgiving of colonizers, Arigon Starr, Kickapoo from Oklahoma, sang the lyrics, “This is Indian land forever,” followed by, “We will take the Rock.”

BRENDA NORRELL is human rights editor for U.N. OBSERVER & International Report. She also runs the Censored website. She can be reached at:




More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
Lara Gardner
Why I’m Not Voting
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017