Remembering the Indigenous occupation of Alcatraz
This week marks the 54th anniversary of the occupation of Alcatraz Island, a 19-month-long protest during which Indigenous people and their supporters demanded that the U.S. honor longstanding agreements with tribes.
How it happened: Led by Mohawk Native American activist Richard Oakes and Indigenous college students, the occupation was intended to reclaim the island, which was the site of a defunct federal prison previously used by tribal populations prior to colonization.
Details: Protesters wanted the deed to the island for "Indians of All Tribes." But as time passed, the federal government began shutting off electrical power and cutting off fresh water sources.
- While protesters had quickly organized an elected council and delegated roles for things like housing, cooking and security, the movement started fracturing amid leadership disagreements.
- Armed federal authorities ambushed the island on June 10, 1971, and forcibly removed the remaining protesters.
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