In 1969 the Indians Of All Tribes a Native American protest group occupied Alcatraz Prison island for one year and seven months.
Their leader was a Mohawk Indian called Richard Oakes, amongst others who wanted the American Government to recognize the plight of the Native American peoples.
The closed prison island of Alcatraz was chosen as the protest site as it was now disused Federal land, and after a treaty in 1868 with the Lakota, of Chief Sitting Bull fame, and the Government back then, it was agreed to return some Federal land.
The protest itself was almost treated in a scornful way by the American Govt at the time and negative reports by the U.S media in regards to the way these ‘Indians’ were treating it in regards to ‘rubbish everywhere’ and looking at early clips now you may get a feeling of condescension.
Authoritarian figures were interviewed by the media during the protest and hints of ‘getting rid of them at anytime’ were clearly expressed by the powers that be at the time.
In a horrible triple tragedy Oakes thirteen year old daughter fell to her death on the island in 1970 and after leaving Alcatraz because of stating he did not have the heart for it anymore, he was bashed in a bar fight in San Francisco with hospitalization. Oakes himself was shot dead in later years by a white supremacist Michael Morgan who pulled a firearm during the argument for Oakes defending Native American children at a camp. Morgan himself was acquitted of the murder. Oakes was not armed and bizarrely it was ruled self defense.
The protest of Alcatraz set a precedent for all Native American peoples in regards to their basic human rights and treatment by the American Government now. The then President Richard Nixon returned 48,000 acres to the Taos Indians at a later stage. The American Government did propose an offer to lease some of Alcatraz to the movement and $250,000 dollars. It was refused. Perhaps not everything has a price…freedom.