Colin Kaepernick

Screengrab via SportHub/YouTube

Colin Kaepernick celebrated ‘Unthanksgiving Day’ with Native Americans

'We're all fighting for our justice, for our freedom.'


Tess Cagle

Layer 8

Published Nov 24, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 10:06 am CDT

Civil rights activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made an appearance Thursday at “Unthanksgiving Day” on Alcatraz Island.

Also known as the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering, “Unthanksgiving Day”  honors the indigenous people of the Americas and promotes their rights. The event has been held annually since 1975 and commemorates a protest held in 1969 when the Alcatraz Red Power movement occupied the land.  

Kaepernick said in an Instagram post that he attended the event to show solidarity with the tribes and nations visiting the space to honor their ancestors, celebrate their culture, and pay respect to those who participated in the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island.

“Every year we participate in a tradition that is rooted in tragedy,” he wrote. “Try as we must to make Thanksgiving about food, family, fun, and forming fond memories, it doesn’t erase the fact that the Natives of this land were (and continue to be) the original victims of American systemic oppression.”

Kaepernick received sacred eagle feathers at the sunrise ceremony, and he expressed gratitude and solidarity in a speech.

“I realize that our fight is the same fight. We’re all fighting for our justice, for our freedom, and realizing that we’re in this fight together makes it all the more powerful,” Kaepernick said.

He said the movement of resistance is gaining momentum.

“If there’s one thing that I take away from today and seeing the beauty of everybody out here, it’s that we’re only getting stronger every day, we’re only getting larger and larger every day,” Kaepernick said. “I see the strength in everybody. The dancing, the rituals—that is our resistance. We continue to fight. We continue to fight for justice. We fight for our freedom, and we continue on that path.”

Many conservatives on Twitter responded to Kaepernick’s participation in Unthanksgiving Day with anger and contempt, saying this proves Kaepernick has no respect for American values.

While Kaepernick’s attendance of the event was criticized by some, supporters of the activist applauded his behavior both in person and on Twitter. Some of his supporters said this event proves he’s destined for a life in politics.

In January, Kaepernick donated $50,000 to the University of California in San Francisco for the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic partnership at Standing Rock. 

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 24, 2017, 1:18 pm CST