The Occupation of Alcatraz 1969-71
November 26, 2009 12:14 AM   Subscribe

Forty Thanksgivings ago Alcatraz Island was occupied by a number of Native American activists as a protest. The occupation lasted until June of 1971 The best place to learn about it is PBS's website for Alcatraz Is Not an Island, Jim Fortier's documentary about the Alcatraz Occupation. Besides an overview of the events it has video interviews with the people involved. [RealPlayer required] Here are photographs of the occupation, mostly from newspapers. For a flavor of how the local media covered the events, here's the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive's Occupation of Alcatraz Collection which has over 40 contemporary newsreports [MPEG4]
posted by Kattullus (10 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
There's another video from Alcatraz Is Not an Island at the bottom of this page.
posted by Kattullus at 12:16 AM on November 26, 2009

Red Power.
posted by Tube at 12:35 AM on November 26, 2009

So I actually work on Alcatraz. I went to a really great Ranger tour today about the occupation in fact.

Ranger Craig has some great pictures from the 40th anniversary gathering on 11/21/09 on his flickr. You can also find him on twitter, where he sometimes tweets about the occupation (especially recently).

If you're in San Francisco, they're projecting movies from the occupation tonight and tomorrow night onto Coit Tower from sundown to sunrise.

There is also the Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering tomorrow morning on the island, which they do every year on Thanksgiving. More info here on attending.

Lastly, some more random links about the occupation:

NPS list of links to various resources on the internet.

We Hold The Rock

Images of some of the exhibits we have on the island regarding the occupation

A small set of images I have of Indian Graffiti from the top tier A block cells. This is an off-limits area so even if you've been out to Alcatraz you probably didn't get to see any of this.

I will probably be back with more links and information later. There's a lot of really cool stuff to share about this.
posted by primalux at 1:21 AM on November 26, 2009 [17 favorites]

It might not be clear here why anyone would want to occupy this bit of craggy rock. If I remember correctly, the U.S. government was supposed to return unused federal land to Native Americans and Alcatraz had fallen into disuse, yet the government was threatening to turn it over to private businesses instead. So the occupation had more to do with a principle of land ownership, a treaty right, than any special love of Alcatraz per se.

Defense of a treaty right can still be a contentious issue.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:51 AM on November 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

Several staffers from my school newspaper attended a high school journalism conference in San Francisco during the last year of the Alcatraz occupation. One of them ditched the formal proceedings and headed over to the dock that the occupiers were using for ferrying over people and supplies, intent on getting a story. He told us that they were a bit suspicious at first of the young Anglo with they long blond hair and trendy corduroy jacket (who could have been an undercover cop, or maybe worse, a Wannabe) but loosened up when they saw he was serious about his journalism and talked at length about their grievances and goals, which made their way into one of the best stories our paper ran that year. He did leave out of the published story a detail he shared with us, about happily accepting their invitation to join the circle that was passing a gallon jug of paisano wine from hand to hand to ward off the evening chill.
posted by Creosote at 6:44 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you, primalux, for adding those links, especially sharing your photos of the graffiti.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:17 AM on November 26, 2009

I remember when this happened, but didn't know much about it. This is really interesting and I look forward to exploring more of the links. Thanks!
posted by OolooKitty at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2009

Related: since 1970, a protest every Thanksgiving at Plymouth has been held by a group of New England Indians.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:01 PM on November 26, 2009

gingerbeer: My pleasure. The occupation is probably the area where I have the biggest gaps in knowledge as far as Alcatraz history is concerned, but I find it an incredibly awesome piece of history.

When I go back to work on Sunday I'll try to get more graffiti pictures for you all.
posted by primalux at 1:49 PM on November 27, 2009

[psst, primalux--come to the SF meetup this evening!]
posted by gingerbeer at 5:20 PM on November 27, 2009

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