Alcatraz Island sunrise ceremony held over radio on Indigenous Peoples' Day

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An annual pre-dawn tradition on Alcatraz Island for Indigenous Peoples' Day took place over the radio Monday morning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Indigenous Peoples' Sunrise Ceremonies" have happened every year on the rock since 1975.

They commemorate the 1969 Alcatraz-Red Power Movement when Native American activists occupied the former federal penitentiary for 19 months.

RELATED: Christopher Columbus statue removed at Coit Tower in San Francisco

Monday morning's sunrise ceremonies also highlighted all the previous pandemics indigenous nations have survived.

Several Bay Area cities recognize Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, recognizing Native Americans who were already here when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.

Berkeley is thought to be the first city in California to adopt Indigenous Peoples' Day in 1992.

The city typically holds a pow wow, however, this year it was moved to Zoom.

"Keep fighting for indigenous rights, whether you are on the front lines at a peaceful protest or at home practicing language or reviving our traditional ways," said one of the participants.

SF District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin thanked Ramaytush Ohlone Peoples, First Peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula, in a Tweet for allowing him to commune and celebrate with them at their small socially-distant gathering in Golden Gate Park.

In San Francisco, Columbus Day weekend is not celebrated, instead, it is "Italian Heritage Day."

This year, organizer Bill Mastrangelo said the focus was less on the past than using it to help struggling businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That was our message. Support local businesses, support Italian business in North Beach and greater Bay Area, while still celebrating our Italian heritage," said Mastrangelo.

Last year, the Christopher Columbus statue near Coit Tower in San Francisco was vandalized. Red paint covered the face of the controversial colonist, while the base of the statue had graffiti that read, "Destroy all monuments of genocide and kill all colonizers." The statue was removed this June.
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