October 9th, 2020 at 3pm
Rooftop Terrace at SFAI - Chestnut CampuS

The Unveiling Ceremony of the Leonard Peltier statue will be available to see via LIVE stream starting at 3pm on Friday October 9th 2020. The stream is presented as a 360-degree video, allowing viewers to experience the ceremony as if they were standing beneath the statue. For the best experience, visit this site on your mobile phone and launch the stream in the YouTube app.

View the Ceremony on YouTube


The statue has traveled around the United States and has, at times, met with an animosity all too familiar to Indigenous activists the world over. At the Katzen Art Center at the American University in Washington DC in 2016, it was censored and taken down after complaints from the president of the FBI Agents Association and subsequently disappeared for nearly a year until the artist was able to recover it. It was then exhibited at the Main Museum in downtown Los Angeles and greeted with an outpouring of community support.

The detachable feet of the statue have travelled Indian Country to many protest and ceremony sites including Standing Rock, Alcatraz Island, and Crow Dog's Paradise. On these journeys, Rigo 23 and collaborators invite people to stand on the feet to show their solidarity for Peltier. Hundreds have, including well-known activists like Angela Davis.

“It is a counter presence to the invisibility of Indigenous People in the USA and the continuous abuse they endure enshrined in the 'Cigar Store Chief' statues which can be found chained to cigar and liquor storefronts in most American cities still today,” says Rigo 23

Explore the statue

The installation of the work at SFAI places the statue in dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples Day Sunrise Ceremonies that have taken place on Alcatraz annually October 12 and November 26 since 1975 to honor the Indigenous Peoples of America, promote their rights, and to commemorate the Native activists who occupied the island in protest in 1969. This year’s October 12th gathering will not take place as a public event. There will instead be a broadcast from 6-8am on KPFA. Details are TBD for November 26.

Use your finger or your mouse to pan around the 360 degree image below.


ABOUT Rigo 23

Rigo 23 is a Portuguese-born American artist and has exhibited his work internationally for over 20 years, placing murals, paintings, sculptures, and tile work in public situations where viewers are encouraged to examine their relationship to their community, their role as unwitting advocates of public policy or their place on a planet occupied by many other living things. Rigo’s works live both as artworks and as thoughtful public interventions.


Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is an indigenous rights activist who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in a June 26, 1975, shooting on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, who is also of Lakota and Dakota descent. He is a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In 1977, he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first-degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier's indictment and conviction have been the subject of much controversy; Amnesty International placed his case under the "Unfair Trials" category of its Annual Report: USA 2010. In his 1999 memoir, Peltier admitted to involvement in the shootout but denied killing the FBI agents.

Peltier's conviction sparked great controversy and has drawn criticism from a number of sources. Numerous appeals have been filed on his behalf; none of the resulting rulings has been made in his favor. Peltier is considered by the AIM to be a political prisoner and has received support from individuals and groups including Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchú, Soviet Peace Committee, Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama), Mikhail Gorbachev, Zack de la Rocha, Rage Against the Machine, the European Parliament, the Belgian Parliament, the Italian Parliament, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. [source]


Founded in 1871 by artists and community leaders with a cultural vision for the West, the San Francisco Art Institute—first as a cultural center and then a fine arts college—has produced generations of creative leaders who have challenged convention and shaped the cultural life of the Bay Area, the United States, and the world. Artists at SFAI have spearheaded art movements including fine art photography, the Beat movement, Abstract Expressionism, Bay Area Figuration, Funk art, avant-garde film, Conceptualism, and video and performance art, and they continue to help define contemporary art and the role of artists in today’s global society. Notable faculty and alumni—both art world-celebrated and less widely known—include Ansel Adams, Aziz + Cucher, Bill Berkson, Kathryn Bigelow Elmer Bischoff, Stan Brakhage, Iona Rozeal Brown, Joan Brown, Nao Bustamante, Enrique Chagoya, Linda Connor, Dewey Crumpler, Imogen Cunningham, Angela Davis, Jay DeFeo, Richard Diebenkorn, Kota Ezawa, Karen Finley, Maria Elena González, Doug Hall, Ed Hardy, Mike Henderson, Harlan Jackson, David Johnson, Sargent Johnson, Toba Khedoori, Paul Kos, George Kuchar, Tony Labat, Annie Leibovitz, Shaun Leonardo, Sharon Lockhart, Cristóbal Martínez, Una McCann, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, Manuel Neri, Ruby Neri, Catherine Opie, David Park, Rigo 23, Mark Rothko, Katrín Sigurdardóttir, Clyfford Still, Larry Sultan, Carlos Villa, Kehinde Wiley, William T. Wiley, and Pamela Z.

Today, approaching its 150th anniversary, SFAI engages a local, national and international community through its public galleries; lectures and symposia; library and archives; public education classes; youth programs in underserved communities; and space-sharing and partnerships with other institutions, in addition to degree-granting programs.