Native American activists in the San Francisco Bay Area seek a new space for Native Americans after the loss of the San Francisco Indian Center by fire on October 10th, 1969. Plans are quickly drawn up to
On March 9, 1964, Richard McKenzie and other Sioux occupied Alcatraz for four hours but were quickly removed by the Coast Guard.
On November 9, 1969, a second group of activists returned. Traveling by boat, Richard Oakes (Mohawk), Jim Vaughn (Cherokee), Joe Bill (Eskimo), Ross Harden (Ho-Chunk) and Jerry Hatch were delivered close to the island. The group then jumped overboard, swam to shore, and claimed the island by right of discovery.
Photograph by Ilka Hartmann
On November 20, 1969, American Indians again landed on Alcatraz Island despite an attempted Coast Guard blockade. The group of 79 Indians included students, married couples and six children and called themselves the Indians of All Tribes. This is when the occupation begins in earnest.
The Occupation lasts from November 20th, 1969 to June 11th, 1971. During this time, hundreds flock to the Island to show support for the cause.
The Occupation slowly begins to break down the larger it grows due to a lack of supplies and leadership. Despite an initial no drugs and alcohol on the Island policy, the new waves of protesters, many of which were non-Native, defy the policy. Richard Oakes and his family leave the Island on January 3rd, 1970 following an accident in an abandoned building that claimed the life of 13 year old Yvonne Oakes.
The Protest ended on June 11th, 1971 when the Coast Guard forcibly removed the remnants of the Occupation, which had by then dwindled due to a lack of supplies and support.
The Occupation, despite not meeting the original goals of the protest, was still considered successful as it ended the US government's policy of termination and launched a wave of protests across America in the name of Native American rights. Credited with starting the Red Power Movement, the Occupation of Alcatraz was one of the most visible protests for Native American Rights and a number of subsequent protests emerged across America as a result, most notably the Pit River Tribe's efforts against PG&E.