Unthanksgiving Day (or Un-Thanksgiving Day), also known as The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, is an event held on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to honor the indigenous peoples of the Americas and promote their rights. It coincides with a similar protest, the National Day of Mourning, held in Massachusetts. Held annually since 1975, the Alcatraz ceremony commemorates the protest event of 1969, where the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement (ARPM) occupied the island. Currently the annual ceremony is organized by the International Indian Treaty Council and American Indian Contemporary Arts.
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 of 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, the first on Thanksgiving in 1970 when they painted Plymouth Rock red. The latter protest continued 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 date of 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 other aspects of their cultures and heritage and speak out for the rights of their people. The celebration is open to the public.
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