The Native Occupation of Alcatraz Island and Its Effects on the Greater American Indian Movement.

2075 Words Dec 1st, 2005 9 Pages
The Native Occupation of Alcatraz Island and its Effects on the Greater American Indian Movement. On November 20th, 1969 a group of Indian students, and urban Indians from the Bay Area led by Richard Oakes landed on Alcatraz Island claiming it as "Indian Land" (Johnson). This was a multi-tribal group and so they adopted the name "Indians of All Tribes" (Johnson). The 1969 landing and subsequent 19 month occupation was not the first attempt at an occupation; it was however the last and the longest in a string of 3 attempts (Winton). This Occupation would have a significant effect on the Native American rights movement and also a profound effect on the Country as a whole.
The First attempt was made on March 9, 1964. It was led by Sioux
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Then on January 5, 1970 Oakes's daughter Yvonne fell three stories in one of the abandoned building and died (Eagle). With this tragic event Oakes lost a daughter and the occupiers lost a charismatic leader. Richard Oakes left the Alcatraz movement saying "Well, you guys do what you can with it. I don't have the heart for it anymore." (Eagle). After Oakes departure there was almost no hope of attaining their goals anymore. Even if negotiations could be set up, there was no longer a centralized Indian leadership with whom to negotiate. The government decided to hurry along the stalemate by shutting off all electrical power to the island and removing the barge which supplied water to the occupiers (Eagle). Three days after the removal of the barge a fire broke out on the east side of the island gutting and destroying many historic buildings (Eagle). The government blamed the increasingly out of control occupiers. Many occupiers however claim that a passing boat had fired a flare onto the island. The cause of the fire remains a mystery but it did however succeed in swaying public opinion away from the occupiers and towards a speedy resolution to the problem (Eagle). People were becoming increasingly upset with the stalemate and the burning of the island and damage to the island's lighthouse (a SF icon) was just fuel to the fire. Soon reports of power struggles, assaults and beatings on the island began to circulate

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