The Ohlone people were the natives who lived in the Alcatraz Island before the first Europeans arrived. The Ohlone people settled impermanent due to the ruggedness of the island. The natives used the island for rest, and assembling themselves before proceeding to their final destination while travelling on canoes through the treacherous waters. Gatherers and hunters for bird eggs and seafood also used this area. The island according to Troy Johnson was an isolation place for those who violated the indigenous people’s laws and taboos. Since mid-1800, the US has made treaties with the Native Americans with an aim of protecting the remaining Indian land, water, and rights. The treaties have, however, been broken over and over by the United States citizens, government officials, and military leaders.
Indian Policies Assimilation and Termination
The federal policy makers viewed Indians as a problem hence their stance on the Indian policy would transform over time from assimilation to termination. The termination policy was pursued vigorously during the reign of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The policy was to remove the reservations of Indians and move them to the cities where they would have better education and employment opportunities. During the relocation phase, thousands of Indians moved from the reservations and were absorbed into the normal urban societies. The major relocation took place in San Francisco (Hoxie, 2012).
The idea of the termination and relocation appeared to be of benefit to the Indians since they now had access to clean water, electricity, and jobs. However, the relocation was a tool to separate them from their cultures. Adaptation in the cities was harder than expected by the majority of Indians causing many of them to leave the city and return to the reservation areas. The employment ideas that sounded good at first proved to weaken the ego of the American Indian.
The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 stated that the Sioux people could reclaim any surplus land acted as a basis for the Indian occupiers, to justify their claim of the ownership of lands on Alcatraz Island (Hendrix, 2005). These early Indian protests faced the law, and many arrested to halt the sparked interest of fellow Indian activists who would plan a more effective takeover.
After many years of deception, the natives awoke and involved themselves with the issues that mattered most to them. The 1960’s social movements became the news in the entire nation proving a period of rebellion and reform with the education received by the young Indians being the proponent in the natives’ quest for their rights (Hoxie, 2012). In the same period, there was the rise of Native American activism who witnessed the power that demonstration, protests, and public display had and used the same to develop their identity among the social movements of that era. The Natives used the policy of “Civil Disobedient” on Alcatraz, which the federal government gave no weight.
The event, however, gave the natives way for a later occupation that started in 1969 and lasted for nineteen months. This occupation made news all over the world. In the same year, there was a campaign held in protest for the relocation of Indians to the cities and for the poor reservation conditions. The “Proclamation for the Indians of All Tribes” was drawn by the occupiers under the leadership of Adam Fortunate Eagle from the Bay Area United Council and Richard Oakes, who was an Indian student at the San Francisco State University. The Proclamation offered to pay twenty-four dollars in glass beads and red cloth for the island a type of the 17th century purchase of Manhattan (Smith & Warrior, 2010).The aim of these occupants was to start an educational and cultural center in the abandoned prison.
Alcatraz land ownership belonged to Indians until June 11, 1971 when some armed federal marshals removed the remaining fifteen inhabitants by force. Even though, the original goals were not recognized, the occupiers succeeded in bringing the Native American matters to the forefront of the American politics (Mintz, 2007).
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