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Image courtesy of StockFreeImages/ Present-day Alcatraz Island.


As families gather to celebrate turkeys and the mayflower, Alcatraz Island is stepping out of the box to honor the many Indigenous people of America who were historically burned by the holiday.

In comparison to a standard Alcatraz Island tour, these sails are meant to commemorate the 1969-1971 occupation of “the Rock” by Indians of All Tribes, an activist group led by Richard Oakes who fought for more land in order to preserve their culture. The event serves as a reminder to remember the 89 men, women and children who joined forces to take over the island after several failed attempts to make their voices heard. Now, decades later, phrases spray painted across the Island such as “Red Power” and “United Indian History” remain embedded in the history of the 19 mo. long seize.

After sailing through the San Francisco Bay and arriving at the island, protesters released a statement of intent to claim the land by “right of discovery”. To emphasize their proclamation, they also sarcastically offered to purchase Alcatraz for 24 dollars in glass beads and red cloth, “A precedent set by the white man’s purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago”. In light of the lack of freshwater and poor living conditions, Native Americans admitted they were indifferent given most Indian Reservations at the time were also badly managed by the Federal Government.

Soon enough, hundreds of college students following the protests fled their homes to offer their support and to help the protest, while others simply sent supplies as needed to the island. In response, the Nixon administration sent numerous officials to dispute potential terms of agreements, but there was little-to-no payoff.

Though as numbers of supporters began to climb, leadership became difficult. On top of more people, came more accidents, one of which involved leader Richard Oakes’ daughter who passed suddenly after falling off of a stairwell. At once, Oakes left Alcatraz and eventually power was cut to the island, forcing most activists out.

In July of 1970, as the last of the protesters stood their ground, President Nixon stated that “The time has come…for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.” In months to come, Nixon’s speech propelled the U.S. government into a series of changes regarding the Indian population, including giving millions of acres of land back and passing over 50 new pieces of legislation in relation to tribes all across America.

The special Indigenous sail will take place on Nov. 20 beginning at 4 a.m. throughout 6 a.m. with ticketed purchase of 15 dollars. Covid restrictions will be implemented regardless of vaccination status, and all guests are expected to be safe and wear a mask. For more information along with the schedule of departure times from pier 33, visit the official Alcatraz city cruises website.

Sophia Sipe is a writer for The Express. Follow Her @SophiaSipe

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