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Alcatraz is Not an Island
Reclaiming Native Land

Co-presented by:


Three Lakota boys
Three Lakota boys are "civilized" at the Carlisle Indian School in the late 1800s.
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives.
Almost immediately following the Indian War era, there began a series of governmental policies that were designed to make sure that we didn't exist anymore as tribal people, that we no longer kept our language, our cultural identity, our religion, and most importantly our land and natural resources.
- Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee) / Occupation Leader

One does not sell the land people walk on.- Crazy Horse,1875

In the 1950s, after decades of failed policies and programs, the U.S. government under President Eisenhower implemented relocation and termination programs as the official Indian policy of the federal government. These two plans, which encouraged Indian people to move off the reservations and into major cities, were designed to liquidate Indian land and officially end federal treaties and agreements. Terminating the relationship between the federal government and Indian communities would mean that tribes would lose special relationships they had been given under federal law, including the tax-exempt status of their land and federal responsibility for Native economic and social well-being.

In 1953, Congress passed a resolution seizing over a million acres of American Indian land and displaced 11,466 people in an effort to wipe out reservations, aggregate treaties and close down the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which at the time carried out the federal government's policies to subjugate and assimilate American Indian tribes. The government promised vocational training, financial assistance and decent housing to those who moved to large cities. But promises of assistance were hollow, and with no job skills and little knowledge of English, some Native Americans had to move into poverty-level housing and onto welfare.

Native Solidarity

By the mid-1960s, an estimated 40,000 Indian people from 100 tribal groups lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Previous relocatees to the Bay Area included men who had served in World War II, men who worked on the railroad and students who had been educated at government-run boarding schools. Rather than dissolving into the urban "melting pot," Bay Area Indians tenaciously clung to their cultures, forming social and political organizations, and began to mobilize. Echoing anti-war voices and activists of free speech, civil rights and social justice, Bay Area Indians began their own protest of Native American treaty and civil rights abuses. By the late '60s, San Francisco's urban Indian community was one of the largest and best organized in the country.

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