Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Thanksgiving, No Thanks 

Unthanksgiving Day Sun-Rise Gathering

Wednesday, Nov 24 1999
Comments
Aaah! It's Thanksgiving, that fine American holiday on which folks gather under a single roof to consummate their familial dysfunction in the midst of a gluttonous eating binge that ends in football. Or not. For the last 25 years, the International Indian Treaty Council has hosted the Unthanksgiving Day Sun-Rise Gathering on Alcatraz Island, a day of solidarity and historical observation.

In the dark, usually drizzly, predawn hours of the fourth Thursday in November, thousands of people from all over the country gather on the San Francisco waterfront, clutching musical instruments and thick wool blankets, embracing rarely seen friends, and chanting quietly as they await the day's first boat. Drawn by laughter and thunderous drums, small dark birds glide out over the inky waters, trailing the boats like pickets to the inhospitable rock outcrop Native Americans once called Turtle Island. The group climbs the hill to an open plateau overlooked by penitentiary ruins. In the distance, the city twinkles, indifferent and opulent, while a great fire crackles on the cold ground. The Sundancers -- those purified by prayer, fasting, and ritual perforation -- form the first circle and everyone without a cigarette is given leaf tobacco to hold and burn during the ceremony.

Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist, Pomo, Hopi, Aztec, Maori, Potawatomi, Laplander, African, and empathetic witnesses bow their heads in prayer just as the first hues of pink spread across the sky. As the sun warms limbs and stone, there is dancing, song, and remembrance for all the great warriors and revolutionaries of the world. Each person adds his or her tobacco to the fire and the boats return to shore before the clock has struck 9 a.m., leaving time enough for potluck feasting at the Inter-Tribal Friendship House, or more traditional nibbling with the relatives. The Blue and Gold Fleet ticket booth at Pier 41 opens at 4 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 25; first ferry leaves at 5:15. Tickets are $8 (free under 5); call 641-4482.

About The Author

Silke Tudor

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"