Alcatraz Is Not An Island

722 Words3 Pages
After centuries of the United States Government ignoring and mistreating the Indigenous people of this land, the Alcatraz occupation in 1969 led by righteous college students, became the longest Indian occupation of federal ground in the history of the United States and a landmark for Indian self-determination. The documentary, Alcatraz is Not an Island, describes the occupation that made Alcatraz a symbol for Indigenous people as motivation to stand up against the cruelty that they have experienced since the arrival of the Europeans. Hence the name of the film, Alcatraz can be seen as an inspiration for Indigenous people rather than an island.

The first attempt to occupy Alcatraz took place in 1964 when a group of four Native Americans landed on the island and claimed it for four hours before the coast guard removed them. This became the inspiration for a group of San Francisco State students to attempt an occupation of their own in 1969. When attempting to make it to the island, only one boat agreed to assist the Native American's in their occupation. They were not able to dock on the island, but, Richard Oaks became the leader of the group when he jumped off the boat and swam to the island. After this brief occupation Richard Oaks returned to San Francisco and began to recruit people to join the movement. Oaks went to UCLA where eighty students agreed to join the movement. On November 20, 1969 a group of one-hundred Native Americans set sail from Sausalito and landed on Alcatraz Island, beginning the occupation that would last for nineteen more months.

The goal of the occupiers was for the United States Government to allow the Indigenous people to create a culture center, museum, and a Native American University on the island. The United States government repeatedly refused to negotiate, however the inspired occupiers refused to back down. The film showed how the Indians worked together to demand justice from the government. Over the nineteen month span hundreds of Native Americans as well as some non-native citizens lived on the island. The occupation ran into leadership issues when Richard Oaks stepped down as the leader due to the death of his daughter, which took place on the island. Just before the occupation ended, the United States government turned off the electricity and water supply to the island.
Open Document