While we were guilt-eating our way through a mountain of mashed potatoes and drinking our weight in wine, civil rights activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was maintaining his position as America’s Most Woke Bae.
GQ’s 2017 “Citizen of the Year” loaded onto a boat to Alcatraz Island at 4AM alongside Native Americans to take part in the annual “Unthanksgiving Day” celebration, also known as the Indigenous People's Sunrise Gathering. Earlier this year, Kaepernick donated $50,000 to the to the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic partnership at Standing Rock to help with medical costs for water protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline site and yesterday, his commitment was celebrated when he received sacred eagle feathers at the ceremony, which is one of the highest honors you can receive from the elders there.
Every year we participate in a tradition that is rooted in tragedy. Try as we must to make Thanksgiving about food, family, fun, and forming fond memories, it doesn’t erase the fact that the Natives of this land were (and continue to be) the original victims of American systemic oppression. To help fight that oppression, as part of my Million Dollar Pledge, I donated $50k to UCSF for the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic partnership at Standing Rock to support the relatives there with their medical needs. At 4am this morning, we rode the ferry to Alcatraz Island for the Indigenous People's Sunrise Gathering, in solidarity with the many tribes/nations visiting the space to not only honor their ancestors, and celebrate their culture, but also pay respects to those that participated in the 19 month occupation of Alcatraz Island in an effort to force the American Government to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie. I was humbled to receive one of the highest honors from one of the elders. Thank you for allowing me to share this space and honor your heritage and history. And also thank you to @mann1e & @oocelestialoo for the help connecting.
The Indigenous People's Sunrise Gathering began in 1975 to honor the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz by 89 activists, who protested in an attempt to turn the island’s prison into a Native American cultural center and school and pressure the American government into honoring The Treaty of Fort Laramie, a treaty focused on land ownership rights for Native Americans. In his speech during the ceremony, Kaepernick expressed gratitude for the sacred eagle feathers and called for strength and unity:
"I realize that our fight is the same fight. We're all fighting for our justice, for our freedom, and realizing that we're in this fight together makes it all the more powerful.
If there's one thing that I take away from today and seeing the beauty of everybody out here, it's that we're only getting stronger every day, we're only getting larger and larger every day. I see the strength in everybody.
The dancing, the rituals – that is our resistance. We continue to fight. We continue to fight for justice. We fight for our freedom, and we continue on that path."
As we prepare to eat the leftovers and weigh our guilt over celebrating this holiday, let’s all give thanks that people like Colin Kaepernick still exist.