Occupation of Alcatraz 1969–1971
Major h/t to Censored News for this!
Photos by Ilka Hartmann
The Occupation of Alcatraz Collection includes 43 videos of the original occupation of Alcatraz. The collection includes these videos:
Alcatraz scenes, relief fund, Richard Oakes interview
American Indians occupy Nike Missile site in San Pablo, Part I
Fisherman’s Wharf & fires on AlcatrazKQED news report from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco on June 8th 1970, featuring interviews with a ferry boat operator, John Trudell and tourists who have just paid $5 to take a trip across to the island. Trudell also discusses the recent fires on Alcatraz, explaining that no one there knows how they started.
Hopi Indian law suit
KPIX news report from a press conference held by Hopi Indian representatives on May 14th 1971, who are bringing a law suit against the strip mining of land near their reservation in the Four Corners region. David Monongye states: “I was very glad to learn that many people had responded to our cause … I hope something will come out of it, so that we may not destroy our mother Earth … We do not want our mother to be destroyed.”
Indian fishing rights in San Francisco
KPIX news report from Pier 40 in San Francisco about a group of American Indians who are fighting to retain fishing rights, on October 12th 1970. Ed Arnow interviews Al Bridges who explains they are selling their fish in San Francisco to help support a camp in Washington state and to provide funds for the American Indian Association. Bridges also states: “What we want is to … regain and retain our treaty rights.” Features scenes of locals purchasing fish from the Indians.
Indian proclamation claiming rights to Alcatraz
KPIX news report from Alcatraz on 10th November 1969, where a group of American Indians have just spent a night staking their claim to ownership of the island. They are interviewed and a young man describes his experience of touring the derelict prison facility, declaring: “This is a monument of a sick society. It’s really sick. People have to be sick to put up something like this!” Another agrees with him, continuing: “We’re going to change it into its opposite … a monument to Indian people.” There are views of reporters and federal authorities walking around the island and then gathering to witness Richard Oakes reading a proclamation to federal official Mr Hammon: “We the Native Americans reclaim this land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery. We wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with the Caucasian inhabitants of this land and hereby offer the following treaty. We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for $24 and glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man’s purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago.” After listening to Oakes, Hammon offers everyone a lift back to the mainland, which they accept.
Indians accept land deed
KPIX news report from an army communications camp 7 miles west of Davis on April 2nd 1971, opening with a brief glimpse of American Indians using a ladder to climb over a security gate. Mike Lee interviews an Indian spokeman who reflects that a: “Society that has systematically set out to destroy our ways is only now coming to understand our people and our relationship with all living things.” Features scenes from a peace pipe and land deed ceremonies, as the land is signed over for the establishment of DQ University. Also includes views of life in the temporary camp established by occupying Indians. Lee sums up the overall mood by refering to a quote from Victor Hugo, written on the official ceremonial program: “Nothing can withstand the force of an idea whose time has come.”
Indians at Federal offices
KPIX news report opening with a brief glimpse of American Indians – including Richard Oakes – meeting with representatives at the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), on March 23rd 1970. KPIX’s Jay Newburn interviews activist Harvey Wells who claims that they represent a united Indian nation, who want recognition as one “nationalistic body,” so they may govern their own affairs. He goes on to declare: “We want to industrialize the reservations and have our people pushed into professional careers and management positions … so that economically we can rise as individuals also.”
Indians occupy Nike Missile site in San Pablo
KPIX news report from a Nike missile site in San Pablo on June 14th 1971, where American Indian activists have just initiated another occupation of land, following their removal from Alcatraz. Features inteviews with a local law enforcement officer and Indian spokesman John Trudell, who informs the press: “This is happening because the government did what they did on Alcatraz. We haven’t forgotten. If the government would’ve made some kind of honorable settlement there and wouldn’t have lied to us, this wouldn’t be necessary here right now.”
Indians removed from Alcatraz, Part I
KPIX’s Belva Davis reports from Alcatraz on June 11th 1971, where American Indian activists have just been removed from the island by armed Federal authorities. Includes extensive views of Alcatraz, a press conference held by Federal representatives and interviews with the Indians, who describe first hand accounts of their arrest. When asked by a reporter to verify if the government’s claim they were forced to intervene because of the theft of copper wire and to repair the lighthouse is true, John Trudell replies: “We were negotiating with the government on the quiet and the meetings started April 13th of this year. And they guaranteed us during these meetings that there would be no arrests and no one would be taken off the island … until negotiations were completed. And they broke their word on it.”
Indians removed from Alcatraz, Part II
KPIX’s Belva Davis reports from Alcatraz on June 11th 1971, where American Indian activists have just been removed from the island by armed Federal authorities. Includes views of the island and of activists under protective custody being escorted off a bus in the city. A government representative justifies their actions by stating the occupation: “Was an intolerable situation that could not go on indefinitely.” At a separate meeting Indian spokesman John Trudell argues: “The significant thing that’s been accomplished by Alcatraz is … we never sold ourselves out. We never compromised. We went for the whole cup cake … We’re bringing people to our side. There’s a lotta Indians aren’t gonna like this.” When asked by a reporter if the Indians will now finally accept “defeat,” Trudell laughs and exclaims: “Defeat! No man, there’s no such thing as defeat. You know. When they start kickin you around you just gotta learn to bandage up the bruises and stand up again. They didn’t beat us.”
Interviews & confrontation with Coastguard at Alcatraz
KQED news report from Alcatraz Island on November 26th 1969, featuring interviews with the occupying American Indians and excerpts of everyday life there. There is also an episode by the dock in which a U.S. Coastguard boat intercepts a vessel full of protesters, including a brief scuffle.
Interview with John Trudell at Fisherman’s Wharf
KQED news report from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco on August 14th 1970 featuring an interview with John Trudell, who discusses the current lack of water and sanitation on Alcatraz. He also tries to explain the moral and political reasons why American Indians continue to occupy the island, in defiance of Federal paternalism. “We’re concerned about … people on the reservations that, that are being forced to assimilate or die out. We’re worried about things like our language and culture. We want this on our own terms … It’s part of us.”
“Keep off Indian property”
KQED news report from the first day of the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz (11/20/69), featuring views of the island taken from different circling boats. Signs are shown in close up which read: “Keep off Indian property” and “Red Power.” One of the news team asks Richard Oakes if the media is already over on the island and he confirms that they are.
Lake County Indians on Rattlesnake Island
KPIX’s Pat O’Brien reports from the Elem Pomo Indian occupation of Rattlesnake Island, at Clear Lake in Lake County (Northern California), on May 19th 1970. There are views of rowing over to the island and of the Pomo settlement there. Features an interview with a company representative (claiming ownership of the land) who states: “We think eventually that the island may have a significant developmental potential as basically a leisure community.” Also includes an interview with a Pomo Indian spokesman, who explains the island: “Has always been our … ancestral home … I don’t think we ever gave it up.”
Lehman Brightman on Economic Opportunity Council
KPIX news report from a press conference held by American Indian activist Lehman Brightman, on December 1st 1969. Brightman is challenging an attempt by the Economic Opportunity Council to force the Indian Center to consolidate two separate programs, which provide emergency funds for food and lodging. He declares: “We’re sick and tired of these people trying to cram their ideas down our throats. Self determination is what we’re … asking for.”
Marine Insurance & LaNada Means Interview
KPIX’s Ed Arnow reports from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco on June 26th 1970. He interviews Don Jelinek – attorney for the American Indians occupying Alcatraz – who explains they intend to bring a lawsuit against the Hartford Insurance Company, for refusing to grant marine insurance for the Bass-Tub vessel bringing supplies to the island. This will be pursued under the civil rights act, on the grounds that insurance is being denied because of political descrimination. Ends with Arnow interviewing Indian spokeswoman LaNada Means about living conditions on the island, who explains there are approximately 89 Indians remaining on Alcatraz: “We’re going to hold out there as long as it takes to maintain our occupation.”
Medicine Men heal Richard Oakes (Hopi Thomas Banyacya is one of the medicine men)
KPIX’s Mike Lee interviews a group of American Indian medicine men on June 24th 1970, who describe how they visited activist Richard Oakes in hospital and successfully assisted with his recovery from a head wound. Ends with one of them explaining that: “The power is not within the medecine men, the power is within the creator. We work through the creator. We’re only the tools of the creator. Without him, Indian medecine can’t work.”
Native Indian environment festival at Pine Lake Park
KPIX’s Evan White reports from Pine Lake Park in San Francisco on November 15th 1970, where American Indians are holding an environment festival. An Indian spokesman explains: “We, as Indian people, still hold all of the land in California … The Bay is losing ground more and more and it’s becoming a cesspool and if we don’t save the Bay, the Bay is gonna kill all of us in revenge because of pollution.” Also features scenes of crowds enjoying a display of traditional Indian dancing.
Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Day 1
KQED news report from November 20th 1969, featuring views of American Indians relaxing on Alcatraz Island and tourists circling the island in boats. There are a series of interviews with protesters who justify their occupation of the island. Dennis Turner replies to a query about the potential threat of federal force being used to evict them by asking: “How can anyone refuse you legal rights to your own property?”
Occupation & ownership of Alcatraz Island
KPIX news report from December 2nd 1969, featuring a press conference in which Richard Oakes explains to the press that: “Alcatraz offers the insulation necessary for us to develop intellectually.” The Federal representative Mr Hammon is seen refusing to accept that American Indians may occupy Alcatraz Island indefinitely and an Indian spokesman presents an argument in support of their treaty rights to appropriate surplus federal land.
Pit River & Alcatraz Indian meetings in San Francisco
KPIX’s Evan White reports from downtown San Francisco on March 25th 1971, where representatives of the Pit River Indians and Indians occupying Alcatraz are shown publicizing their land claims at PG&E and the Southern Pacific Railroad Building. White interviews several activists including John Trudell, who states: “We’re serving notice on the tour boats. We don’t want … them … bringing tourists close to the island, so that they can look at us … It’s not a zoo out there.” A spokesman for the Pit River Indians comments on their reception at PG&E: “When I went to school, how did it go? We the people of the United States of America, so forth and so forth. Now it’s we the big corporations of America. These are the people that control America. It’s not we the people. This is why I think that we were met here today as we were with armed guards.” Also features interviews with spokesmen for PG&E, the Southern Pacific Railroad and tour boat operators.
Pit River Indian trespass trial in Burney
KPIX’s Mike Lee reports from Burney Office Building in Shasta County, Northern California, on October 9th 1970. There are (silent) views of the surrounding countryside and inside the Office Building, where a group of Pit River Indians are on trial accused of trespassing on PG&E property. The Indian’s attorney claims: “These defendents could not have committed a crime because they sincerely believe it is their land and they have no criminal intent.” Another Indian spokesman goes on to describe how local corporations may be: “Willing to support us in our fight against the Federal government for return of lands.”
Thanksgiving press conference on Alcatraz
KQED news report from Alcatraz on November 25th 1970, featuring the unloading of supplies from a boat at the dock, which are then carried up to living quarters on a hand pulled cart. LaNada Means gives a press conference to announce that whilst the American Indians are celebrating Thanksgiving on Alcatraz tomorrow, they will not be accepting the gift of any food from white people. She places this declaration in a historical context of how the first white settlers came to celebrate Thanksgiving: “They can bring food to give to the island for the purpose of giving but not because of the reason that it has been for hundreds of years because we are no longer going to let them live a lie.”
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