Alcatraz Occupation at 50: Richard Oakes and Red Power
Fifty years ago this November, a group of Native Americans that came to be known as Indians of All Tribes began a 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island. The takeover and occupation attracted a groundswell of interest from across the United States and the globe. The initial focus of the occupation was a protest against the U.S. government's policies that took aboriginal land away from Native Americans. The Alcatraz occupation is recognized today as one of the most important events in contemporary Native American history and one of the most important public displays of the Red Power movement, a social movement that demanded self-determination for Native Americans in the United States. The occupation helped bring Native American activism to the forefront of the consciousness of the American people. The 50th anniversary of this important event is being recognized throughout the Bay Area in an effort led by the San Francisco Arts Commission.
The takeover and occupation was led, in part, by Richard Oakes, a charismatic student from San Francisco State. The first biography of Oakes, A Journey to Freedom, was published late last year. Its author, Kent Blansett, will make a special visit to Marin County to discuss Oakes, the role the occupation played in the Red Power movement of the 1960s and the ongoing legacy of Native activism that was spurred by the 1969 takeover. Kent Blansett is a Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Shawnee and Potawatomi descendant. Blansett will also discuss the role that Marin County residents played in the start of the Alcatraz occupation, including the role of the Sausalito-Indian Navy, which helped Oakes launch the occupation late in the evening of November 20, 1969. Join us for this special event.