Saturday, June 07, 2014

Radio Free Alcatraz

"America did not get its wealth by being nice..."
~~ John Trudell

During my drive to an Atlantic harbor this morning, I heard an interesting story from BBC Witness about an important historic event in a famous Pacific Harbor. The Native American Occupation of Alcatraz is a chapter of Nixon-era activism that I had somehow missed, though the phrase "Radio Free Alcatraz" did ring somewhat familiar.

When I got home, librarian Pam and I found that listening to the entire story was worthwhile for the light it shed on what later evolved into the American Indian Movement (AIM) and for its vivid description of the geography of the island itself. Although the story suggests that nothing was being done on behalf of Native Americans prior to the 1969 occupation, an article about the occupation on Native Village describes several efforts to occupy the island that began in 1964, very soon after it was decommissioned as a prison in 1963.

Today the island is open to the public as part of the National Park Service, which describes the events in an article entitled We Hold the Rock. Not only does the NPS invite people to learn about these events, but its web site even describes the occupation as "one of the most influential events in the island's history" and one "that saved the tribes and maybe the island too."

I look forward to finding a copy of the 2001 PBS documentary Alcatraz is Not an Island, though it is not available through the usual channels.
From the graffiti slide show that is part of the NPS museum exhibit Indian Occupation

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