19. The siege of Alcatraz (1969) and its impact on Native American Civil Rights

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  • Created on: 06-06-17 21:49
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  • 19. The siege of Alcatraz (1969) and its impact on Native American Civil Rights
    • Island of Alcatraz
      • Originally belonged to Ohlone Indians before it had been taken and used as jail
      • Now stood empty
      • Group of NAs from range of tribes demanded its return
      • Led by Richard Oakes, member of Mohawk tribe
        • in symbolic gesture, occupiers offered government $24 in beads and cloth, price that had been paid to NAs for island of Manhattan
          • Gov refused and numbers involved in siege increased to 80
    • Although NAs unsuccessful in regaining land
      • Siege had some positive achievements
        • Worldwide media coverage resulted from it made many aware of conditions of NAs and may have forced gov to reconsider policies
        • Little doubt it encouraged many other NAs to become involved in movement, with some 10,000 visiting island during siege while others occupied other government owned land
        • Important in bringing NAs together and uniting them in their struggle
          • Significant change from start of period when tribes had been divided
        • Now increased awareness of need for solidarity if NAs were to achieve their goal of 'native sovereignty'
    • Impact of siege
      • Encouraged further militant, sometimes violent, action
      • Actions gained AIM national attention and publicity
        • Hugely important as NAs were unable to achieve anything through ballot box as they made up only 1% of electorate
      • Questionable impact of actions undertaken
        • Although bought NAs publicity, some have argued struggle, as militia and police ended occupation, was counter-productive and went against NA beliefs
        • Violence also split movement, with some opposed to such methods, and this further limited impact
    • Further protests in 1970s
      • 1971 Occupation of Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, Dakota
        • Sacred burial ground of Sioux
        • Protesters established camp
        • Evicted but NAs continued to claim Black Hills and established further camps
      • 1972: AIM take over Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington DC
        • Protest followed on from journey made by some 1000 protesters who travelled across US in 'Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan'
        • Aim of protest to draw attention to treaties previous US gov had broken with NAs
        • At time of presidential election, would gain them further publicity
        • Supposed t be peaceful protest as marchers handed in list of approx. 20 issues to be resolved
          • Due to being without accommodation, they took over Bureau and had to be evicted resulting in violence
      • 1973: the occupation of Wounded Knee
        • Site of Sioux massacre in 1890, Wounded Knee was particularly important place for NAs
        • Occupation lasted for 71 days
        • Saw violence and resistance to gov agents
        • Negotiated settlement achieved but two leaders were later arrested, although they were acquitted
      • 1975: Pine Ridge Reservation
        • Near Wounded Knee
        • Further violence broke out and resulted in shooting which left 2 FBI agents and a protester dead
        • Member of AIM was found guilty of murder
          • Appeal Court blamed killings on overreaction of authorities
    • Overall
      • Little doubt NAs had made progress in last decades of period
      • Ending of tribal rivalry and subsequent unity had undoubtedly helped in bringing this about
      • 'Red Power' movement had exerted considerable pressure on governments
        • Govs saw NAs were capable of being more assertive
        • This, alongside realisation from federal govs that NAs had previously been treated unfairly, was crucial factor in attainment of civil rights for NAs


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