Last week, Bear and I were in the Bay Area visiting family and decided to make the trip to Alcatraz Island. It became clear that we were on a different tour of the island than many of the folks on the ferry. The prison history tour is a highlight for most people, but we were there searching for remnants of the 1969-1971 Indian Occupation. We quickly ditched the crowds that gathered for an audio tour of the cell blocks and went around looking for signs.
The signs are there. Sometimes the signs are repainted graffiti and gift shop souvenirs, sometimes they are in the rubble of burnt down buildings.1
The energy on the island was surprisingly calm considering its turbulent histories. I thought about the significance of the occupation and the impact it continues to have. Tomorrow, Feb. 13th, 2016, the National Parks Service will celebrate the first Indians of All Tribes Day to honour the occupation.
1 “In late May 1970, the water barge that had supplied the island had been removed by the Coast Guard with the ostensible intent of refilling it and returning it to the island. On June 1, seventy-five occupiers …were left without water or power. …At about 11 pm, the Coast Guard dispatched a boat to investigate a glow through the fog from Alcatraz and found that the whole east end of the island appeared to be burning. …No fire-fighting equipment was known to be on the island. Government officials blamed the fire on the occupiers, and the occupiers charged that a group of whites who slipped past their security had started it….After the fires, government officials began to quietly consider removal options.” (1997). Months of Turmoil: May 1970 to June 1971. In T. R. Johnson (Ed.), (41-42). San Francisco, California: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.