ALCATRAZ, Calif. (KGO) -- A gorgeous Hunter's Moon shined over the bay at dawn as canoes representing native tribes and families from as far north as Canada and far west as Hawaii headed out on a canoe journey around Alcatraz. The event was something the Bay Area had never seen before.
"One of the original leaders of the Alcatraz occupation, a man named Richard Oakes, said that Alcatraz is not an island... it's an idea," Julian Noisecat, one of the event organizers, said. "The idea was that Alcatraz would serve as a symbol of native rights and native people, a symbol of our resistance and our persistence."
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz. In 1969, native activists and students occupied the island and catalyzed the indigenous rights movement. It seemed only fitting for the group embarking on the canoe journey to mark the moment on Indigenous Peoples' Day.
"It is Indigenous Peoples' Day," Devon Peone, a member of the Spokane tribe, said. "We've been here forever and will forever be here."
For some, rowing through the bay was tough. The water was cold and choppy, but the experience was spiritual.
"I really felt the presence of the people that went before us," Barry Moses said. "The people who fought for native rights 50 years ago and the people who are fighting for native issues still today. Being on the water and seeing the sun come up, it was a very emotional and spiritual experience."