fbpx
 

SAN FRANCISCO — In modern times, Alcatraz Island has become a symbol to American Indians. It is a symbol of both struggle and hope. The affinity American Indians have with Alcatraz Island goes deep. For years, the island was home to a federal penitentiary there. Called the “Rock,” the penitentiary’s most famous inmate was notorious gangster Al Capone.

After the prison closed in 1963, American Indians began to petition the federal government to put it into “Indian land.”

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

From November 1969 to July 1971, a group of American Indians took over and occupied Alcatraz Island led by Mohawk Richard Oakes, Tuscarora medicine man Mad Bear Anderson, and Grace Thorpe (Sac and Fox), the daughter of Olympic great Jim Thorpe. The group was called the Alcatraz Red Power Movement and was also known as the “Indians of All Tribes.”

Now Indians of All Tribes and others are asking U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and the National Park Service to establish a cultural center on the island. 

LaNada War Jack, one of the original Alcatraz Island occupiers, told Native News Online that Indians of All Tribes has revived its “old” proposal from five decades ago.

“Our struggles for a better humanity, culture and life has never ended and we will continue to fight against racism and discrimination of all people,” War Jack said.

Part of that fight includes the cultural center that would help educate non-Natives about the history of Indigenous people of the United States.

The cultural center would establish a permanent cultural presence on Alcatraz Island as a space for learning and gathering and is consistent with the stated goal of the Park Service to recognize Indigenous culture as part of the national experience. One of the goals for the island, which hosts several Native events such as the Sunrise Ceremony and the Indigenous Canoe Journey, is to refashion the lighthouse into a Thunderbird totem in honor of the symbolic meaning of power, presence, and protection.

Currently, there is a photo exhibit in the New Industries Building that is the proposed site of the Indians of All Tribes Thunderbird Cultural Center. The exhibit showcases the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 Takeover and Occupation.  

One goal in the proposal is to require the Parks Service to officially designate Alcatraz Island as being on Ohlone territory, which was occupied by Natives for thousands of years prior to European contact.

Additionally, visitors will be exposed to the true histories of Native California tribes and the 1969 Native Occupation of the event and why it happened. 

The Indians of All Tribes group has requested to meet with Sec. Haaland to discuss the proposed cultural center.

More Stories Like This

Tribally-Owned Golf Course Awarded National Golf Course of the Year
Chewing Tobacco with a Disparaging Name Wants to be “More Inclusive,” Now Known As “America’s Best Chew”
Native News Weekly (January 23, 2022): D.C. Briefs
NCAI's 2022 Executive Council Winter Session to be Virtual Again This Year
US Supreme Court Will Not Consider Overturning McGirt Decision; Will Rule on Scope of the Landmark Ruling

The truth about Indian Boarding Schools

This month, we’re asking our readers to help us raise $10,000 to fund our year-long journalism initiative called “The Indian Boarding School Project: A Dark Chapter in History.”  Our mission is to shine a light on the dark era of forced assimilation of native American children by the U.S. government and churches.  You’ll be able to read stories each week and join us for Livestream events to understand what the Indian Boarding School era has meant to Native Americans — and what it still means today.

This news will be provided free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts.  Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. He can be reached at [email protected]