This Land is My Land
"Alcatraz is not an island, it's an idea. The idea that you can recapture and
be in control of your life, your destiny, and self-determine your future."
— Richard Oakes, Spokesperson for the Occupation
Pursuing an Ideal
In November, 1969, a group of American Indians calling themselves "Indians of All Tribes" seized Alcatraz Island to highlight continuing grievances against the federal government and to assert tribal rights to reclaim land. Cornposed of progressive college students in California, the Indians were the urban descendents of nineteenth century warriors.
Shaping a Place
The Indians of All Tribes welcomed media coverage of their public protest and hoped to raise national consciousness about contemporary tribal issues. The occupiers also considered converting Alcatraz into an Indian University, a cultural center, and a museum. These ideas lost momentum as the numbers of occupiers dwindled due to the challenges of living on The Rock.
After nineteen months. U.S. Marshals intervened to reclaim the government property and the last Indians were evicted in June, 1971. The Occupation of Alcatraz became a landmark event that reinvigorated Native American pride and initiated dramatic legislative and cultural change.
The Voice of Alcatraz
the Occupation, John Trudell, a member of the Santee Dakota tribe, spoke eloquently on public radio about the resilience of Native Americans coping in modern society. Later, Trudell became the National Field Director of the American Indian Movement (AIM), again stepping forward to lead indigenous people in their struggle for visibility and justice.
Trudell's gifts were not limited to the political realm: his music and poetry have also affected audiences in a profound way.