Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spent the Thanksgiving holiday celebrating the Day of Mourning with Native Americans on Alcatraz Island. Kaepernick, who generated national debate by protesting against racial injustice, voiced support for Native American causes.
On Nov. 23, Kaepernick made a surprise appearance in Alcatraz, California, SFGate reports.
"Today, I was on Alcatraz Island at the Indigenous [Peoples'] Sunrise Gathering, in solidarity with those celebrating their culture and paying respects to those that participated in the 19th month occupation of Alcatraz in an effort to force [the U.S.] to honor the Treaty of Fort Laramie," Kaepernick tweeted.
While the majority of Americans are festive on Thanksgiving Day, Native Americans observe the federal holiday, which some refer to as Unthanksgiving Day, as a Day of Mourning for their ancestors.
In November 1969, 89 Native American activists occupied Alcatraz, the former site of a federal prison, demanding the island be turned into a cultural center for their heritage. They occupied Alcatraz until June 1971, and the island has served as a spot for the sunrise gathering ever since.
"It's about reflecting, remembering and celebrating that we are still her and our culture still survives ... It's a wonderful way for native people to anti-celebrate the day," Native American actor Michael Horse told Newsweek.
Kaepernick told attendees of the sunrise gathering that he supported their cause.
"I realize that our fight is the same fight," Kaepernick said. "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."
The NFL player added: "If there's one thing that I take away from today and seeing the beauty of everybody out there, it's that we're only getting stronger every day, we're only getting larger and larger every day."
In August 2016, Kaepernick drew national controversy when he began to kneel during the national anthem before football games to protest against police brutality.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media at the time. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick is currently a free agent in the NFL. His protest drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who has called for football players who kneel during the anthem to be fired.