Native American Canoe Journey to Commemorate Alcatraz Occupation 50 Years Ago

Alcatraz Island Tunnels
Eric Risberg/AP

The Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island 50 years ago will be commemorated on Monday at a canoe journey around the famous island.

The Alcatraz Canoe Journey will start at 6 a.m. Monday, celebrated as Indigenous Peoples' Day, at San Francisco Aquatic Park.

Canoes representing tribes from around the West Coast will participate.

Participants are coming from as far away as Hawaii and British Columbia, organizers said.

"Canoe Journey is Indian Country's fastest growing tradition," said activist and event organizer Eloy Martinez, who was an early participant in the 1969 occupation. "We expect hand-carved dugout canoes, tule canoes-all kinds of traditional canoes. The canoes will leave from Aquatic Park, navigate the often-dangerous water around Alcatraz, and return to shore for a day full of songs, stories and dances by participating canoe families and other Native communities."

The canoe event is the first of its kind in the Bay Area and is inspired by the Tribal Canoe Journey held in the Pacific Northwest.

Organizers hope the event inspires a new generation of leaders as well as educating the public about the Alcatraz occupation "and the enduring importance of First Peoples in the context of global environmental crisis."

The Alcatraz Canoe Journey sets out at 6 a.m. from Aquatic Park in San Francisco. Cultural protocol will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m. This event is free, open to the public and inclusive.

A four-part speaker series, "Alcatraz: An Unfinished Occupation," is scheduled in conjunction with the canoe journey, under the sponsorship of the California Historical Society, the Exploratorium, the Natural History Museum, the Presidio Trust, the San Francisco Museum Modern of Art and the San Francisco Public Library.

Locations and dates of the speaker series are available at https://www.canoejourney2019.com/talks.

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