Alcatraz Indigenous Peoples Day


In the wee dawn of the morning, on a cold and frigid day, I bundled up in layers and layers of clothing. I knew this day was going to be chilling; chilling in the knowing that I will soon be on the island, Alcatraz Island.

This was Indigenous Peoples Day – Eagle staffs, elders, and children; singers, dancers, and prayers; medicine and fire burning and all around the water flowing – this gathering is the way many indigenous people across Turtle Island came to gather and celebrate.

A beautiful way to meet the new morning sun is through Sunrise Ceremony. We feel embraced by the Star Nation while listening to elders reminding us of stories of colonization, loss of our lands, culture, language, and children. I could only bow my head and feel the overwhelming sadness of the sacrifices, horrors, and misdeed suffered by so many indigenous people. I could remember the stories of my grandparents, elders, aunties, uncles, and my mom. Grief still stricken me. As I look toward the star nation, the chilling winds pass through me, I hear the waters crashing, the birds calling out, I then see a spark of the sun rising.

I hear our elder speaking, asking all to join in the morning praises, the morning prayers as the sun rises in the east. She blessed us in all directions, giving thanks for this beautiful day, praying for hope, love, forgiveness, and survival on this day and the days ahead of us. I then feel and hear the people moving around and I hear our traditional music, I hear our traditional songs being sung and see my nation dancing and I am grateful. I dance in place with my people, I sing the songs and raise my hands to the star nation, to all four directions, to the water, to mother earth and the people before me. I know the ancestors hear us, I know our ancestors are with us and will always be with us. I know because I carry the blood of my ancestors.

As the morning progresses, many nations came in to dance their traditional dances. Round Valley Dancers from Covelo, Kumeyaay Bird Singers from Southern California, and the Danza Azteca Group. Ras K’de (Pomo), Gregg Castro (Ramaytush Ohlone), Andrea carmen (Yaqui) Lisa Bellinger (Ojibwe) and Lanada War Jack (Shoshone- Bannock), all offered encouraging, words, music, songs and prayers.

Children’s Remains Found at Kamloops Indian Residential School

During the ceremony, throughout the early dawn and sunrise of the morning, you can see a small Orange Healing Lodge, a small child painted on the outside and inside laying on a child’s blanket acorns, a pair of moccasins, clapper stick, sage, tobacco, medicine bags and an orange Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s scarf. We were reminded of all the children taken from their homeland, their parents and all relations and placed in boarding schools, sometimes hundreds, even thousands of miles from their homelands. Many of these children were returned to their parents, thousands of the children never returned home.

In May 2021, skeletal remains of 215 children were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, Canada. Outrage across Turtle Island erupted within the indigenous communities, the investigations immediately resumed and continue to this day. At last count over 7000 children’s remains have been located.

For more information on the Children’s Healing Lodge, visit


Turtle Island is what some indigenous peoples call North America.
Star Nation some indigenous people believe that the night sky had spiritual meaning.