On Saturday, October 19 in the copper mining town of Miami, Arizona, an evening program at Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum will reflect upon the historic Occupation of Alcatraz takeover. Eighty-nine men, women and children of various tribal nations descended upon the island of Alcatraz on November 20, 1969 and claimed it on behalf of all tribal nations.
The activist group that dubbed itself “Indians of All Tribes” had globally awoken the world to the mistreatment and unmet needs of tribal nations in the United States. The 19-month siege gained worldwide attention and laid a path for several legislative bills that would be enacted on behalf of tribal nations. One piece of legislation, enacted in 1970, was the removal of the Indian Termination Policy, which sought to dismantle tribal reservations and assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American society.
Isaac Curley (Apache/Navajo), founder of the Apache Arrows Film Festival, says, “As we pay tribute to its 50th year, I feel that the natives and non-natives should become acquainted with the Occupation of Alcatraz. The Occupation, like rippling water, generated the dynamics for the passing of numerous legislative acts so all tribes, as sovereign nations, could govern their own.”
In its early history, Alcatraz served as a military fortress armed with cannons. Originally serving as a prison for military personnel, it did make exceptions. In 1895, 19 Hopi men were incarcerated for seven months. They were sentenced as a result of not using farming methods issued by the government and resistance to having their children taken and sent away to government boarding schools.
Pursuant to the Occupation, U.S. President Richard Nixon would provide tribal nations with the greatest degree of support in U.S. history. From 1969–1974 he signed more than 50 Congressional bills and enactments on behalf of tribal nations.
On June 10, 1971, the last of the occupants were removed and the Occupation of Alcatraz came to an end. Two years after the siege ended, Alcatraz Island opened as a U.S. national park in 1973, which attracted more than 50,000 visitors.
A person of Hopi heritage who had close ties to the Alcatraz Occupation is being sought as a guest speaker for the event that will also include a video, music presentation and light refreshments. Interested individuals may contact Isaac Curley at firstname.lastname@example.org.