November 9, 1969. Repossession of Alcatraz Island

Fourteen American Indian activists re-occupy Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay and symbolically reclaim the island for Indian people, offering to purchase the island for $24 worth of glass beads and red cloth. On November 20, the symbolic dissent on Alcatraz Island turns into a full-scale re-occupation that lasts until June 11, 1971. One hundred Indian youth, primarily California college students, representing 20 tribes occupy Alcatraz Island and demand the establishment of a center for Native studies, and centers for American Indian spirituality, ecology, and training. By November 28, the number of Indians on the island increases to approximately 400   defying federal demands that the island be vacated; approximately 150 Natives set up permanent residency in cell blocks and other buildings. The federal government’s actions are orchestrated directly from the White House; a “hands-off” policy toward the activists is adopted by President Richard Nixon as a result of the growing negative public image resulting from the Vietnam War and the killing of college students at Kent State university by National Guard personnel. While negotiations are conducted throughout the prolonged period of repossession, the federal government refuses to give in to Native demands. As time passes, public sympathy for the Indians on the island decreases and on June 11, 1971 federal marshals and Government Services Administration special forces personnel remove the 15 remaining Native activists. Following the Alcatraz re-occupation, Indian activists, led by former participants in the protest, occupy over 60 government facilities across the United States, demanding that Indian rights be recognized. During the re-occupation of Alcatraz Island, President Nixon signs legislation that returns the sacred Blue Lake to the Taos people and formally announces a government policy of self-determination for Indians. Members of the Alcatraz repossession force become leaders in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and participate in the February 1973 re-occupation of Wounded Knee, and the 1975 control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, D.C.