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Indians on Alcatraz 

Photos and Article by Bill Wingell 

'if J 



Nona Locke laughed and nuzzled 
her head on her brother's shoulder. 
A shy, 14-year-old Sioux-Chippewa 
girl from Topanga, near Los An- 
geles, Nona seenned both embar- 
rassed and amused by my efforts to 
photograph her and her 15-year-old 
brother, Kevin. 

We were on board a fishing boat 
chugging across San Francisco Bay 
on our way to Alcatraz, the aban- 
doned federal prison island nov/ 
occupied by Indian-Americans. The 
deck of the small vessel was 
crowded with some 35 persons, 
many of them women and children. 
Except for myself, everyone, includ- 
ing the boat's captain, was Indian. 

Dressed poorly and loaded down 
with bulky bundles, the travelers 
brought to mind images of an Ellis 
Island ferry jammed with newly- 
arrived immigrants or a boat-load of 
Jewish refugees slipping into Pales- 
tine after World War II. 

Nona and Kevin sat in the stern, 
giggling at my struggle to keep a 
firm footing while taking photo- 
graphs on the wave-rocked boat. 
During the 20-minute ride, the two 
young people talked about the im- 
portance of the Indian occupation 
of Alcatraz and why they had 
chosen to spend their entire vaca- 
tion from school on "the rock." 

"It's really the principle of it," 
Nona remarked. "The government 
made a treaty that all abandoned 
or unused federal lands should im- 
mediately be turned back to the 
Indians" — a reference to an 1868 
treaty between the U.S. government 
and the Sioux tribe. "We think 
they should live up to the treaty." 

"We want to protest, we want 
white people to take notice of us," 
Kevin injected. "We're always hid- 
den away, but now Indians are as- 
serting themselves more." 

Nona spoke enthusiastically of the 
occupiers' plans to establish an In- 
dian cultural center on Alcatraz. 
"They should make it the capital of 
Indians," she said, noting; "I get a 
good feeling being around my peo- 
ple. Some of the kids who weren't 
raised on reservations have to read 
books to find out about their own 
people." Nona then voiced a fre- 
quently-heard complaint about 
schooling — that public schools are 
programmed for white youth and 
do not meet the special needs of 
Indian students. She said she hoped 
the Alcatraz invaders would set up a 
high school on the island. 

Our boat docked at the island's 
landing, where the occupiers had re- 
lettered a large "United States 
Property" sign to read: "United 
Indian Property." From a nearby 
guard tower flew the Indians' own 
tepee-emblazoned flag. 

After scrambling onto the dock 
and greeting their mother, who was 
also staying on the island, Nona and 
Kevin agreed to give me a tour. 
We walked up a concrete roadway 
toward the now-dormant power 
plant. Wandering through decay- 
ing buildings — the power station, a 
paint shop, the workshops where 
prisoners had labored — and climb- 
ing over crumbling catwalks con- 
necting the once gun-bristling guard 
towers, I had the feeling I was ex- . 
ploring an old prison set on a back- r 
lot of a Hollywood movie company. 

Nona Locke on boat to Alcatraz 


Volume 21 
Number i f 

May 24. 1970 

Editor: Herman C. Ahrens, Jr. 
Assoc. Editor: Laura-Jean Mashricic 
Art Consultant: Charles Newton 
Admtn. Secretary: Clara UtermoWen 
Secretary: Jane Popp 
Editorial address: Room 806, 1505 Race 
St.. Philadelphia, Pa. 19102 

YOUTH magazine 

is published 

for high school young people 

of the 

United Church of Christ 


The Episcopal Church 

An Horizons edition is published 

for young people of the 

Church of the Brethren 

YOUTH is also 

recommended for use 

among young people of the 

Anglican Church of Canada 

Youth rnagazine is pub- 
lished every other week 
throughout the year (ex- 
cept during July and Au- 
gust, when monthly) by 
the United Church Press. 
The Horizons Edition is 
distributed to Brethren youth 
by The General Board- 
Church of the Brethren. 

Publication office: 1720 
Chouteau Avenue, St. Louis, 
Mo. 63103, Second class 
postage paid at Philadelphia, 
Pa., and at additional mail- 
ing offices. Accepted for 
mailing at a special rate 
of postage, provided for in 
Section 1103, Act of Octo- 
ber 3, 1917, authorized 
June 30, 1943. 

SubscrlpHon rates: Sin- 
gle subscriptions, $3.00 a 
year. Group rates, three or 
more to one address, $2.40 
each. Single copies, 25 cents 
each, double issues, 50 cents. 

Subscription offices: 
United Church of Christ: 
Division of Publication, 
LTniled Church Board for 
Homeland Ministries, 1505 
Race St., Philadelphia, Pa. 
1910:^. Episcopal Church: Cir. 
cuiation Department, Youth 
magazine. Room 310, 1505 
Race St., Philadelphia, Pa. 
19102. Church of the Breth- 
ren: The General Board, 
1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, 
III. 60120. 

Copyright 1970 
by United Church Press 

This issue designed by Jirn Wilson 

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We want white people to take notice of us 


The whole scene seemed unreal. 

To the men once imprisoned 
there, however, Alcatraz had been 
real enough. One of the Indian in- 
vaders himself was having some- 
thing of a reunion with "the rock." 
Theodore Mureno, a 46-year-old 
Yakima from Washington State, 
said he spent five months there in 
1947 for illegally fishing in Alaska. 
Now, he was back, as the Indian in- 
vasion force's chief cook. "This 
place has changed quite a bit," 
Mureno observed. 

Actually, the island hasn't 
changed much at all throughout its 
dismal history. 

The Spanish, who claimed the 
island from — who else? Indians — in 
1775, were the first to use it as a 
prison. In fact, their old dungeons 
form part of the foundation for the 
present prison structure. In 1846, 
the island passed into U. S. hands, 
and the government used it as a 
military prison three years later. 

Ironically, the first American pris- 
oners sent to Alcatraz were rebel- 
lious Indian chiefs. The island re- 
mained under military control until 
1933, at which time it became a 
civilian prison. 

In 1963, the government aban- 
doned the outmoded prison and left 
it in the care of the General Serv- 
ices Administration (GSA). Since 
then, several schemes for its use 
have been proposed, among them 
its conversion into a gambling ca- 
sino, a wax museum of former no- 
torious prisoners, and a monument 
to space technology. None of the 
plans have come to pass, however. 

and the island's only inhabitants — 
until the arrival of the Indians — 
have been caretaker John Hart and 
his wife and two helpers. 

Our tour having taken us across 
the island, Nona, her brother and I 
walked up a hill toward the pink 
concrete building containing the 
main cells. In the structure's central 
section, four blocks of cells rose 
three tiers high. Some of the five- 
by-nine foot cubicles showed signs 
of recent occupancy; the Indians 
had lived in them when they first 
arrived on the island; later, they 
moved into other buildings, includ- 
ing the warden's house and the 
guard's apartment buildings, where, 
for lack of furniture, heat and other 
amenities, they slept in sleeping 
bags on the floor. 

Nona joked that she had come 
up with one money-making idea: 
"We'll charge people to come out 
and see the 'Birdman of Alcatr'az' 
cell. We're not sure which one it 
was, but we'll just put a sign on any 
cell." She laughed, and she and her 
brother walked down a long aisle 
between the rows of darkened cell 
blocks to the prison cafeteria, where 
the old penitentiary's new occupants 
were eating a lunch of cheese sand- 
wiches and cocoa. 

The occupation of Alcatraz be- 
gan on November 20 last year, 
when 89 Indians, many of them 
young people, arrived by boat to 
take up their outlandish residence. 
During holidays, the island popula- 
tion swelled to several hundred. But ^ 
mostly the population has been r 
transient, with thousands of tribal 

Gateway to the new Alcatraz 


Why wonf you give us the hiand — 
What IS if that you fear? 

Why don't you try to set things right 
Now that we are here? 

Why won't you give us our land and schools 
And let us begin to build? 

Are you ashamed of what you've done — 
Of what you've spoiled and killed? 

Why don't you give us Alcatraz, 
What dsi^JLES^n to you? 


Whaf if fhe Mohawk and Navaho 
Join Cherokee and Sioux? 
For we are one people, proud and strong 
And we must have fhis land! 

We'll build a new and sacred place 
According fo an Indian plan! 

So do nof fear, O, poor white man, 
We do nof want your life! 

We turn instead to our Indian Way 
Free from your hate and strife! 

—Lone Wolf, Blackfoot 
December 3. 1969 


We need a lot of help; we can t do it alone 


visitors coming and going over the 
months. Now about 100 live there. 

Not surprisingly, it was Indian 
youth — that "new breed" of native 
American militants, as one observer 
put it — who started the whole thing. 
Much of the impetus for the inva- 
sion, according to one early arrival, 
came from the loss by fire of an 
Indian community center in San 
Francisco. "We needed a new 
place to gather," the youth said. 

The first foray took place on the 
night of November 9. At that time, 
14 Indian students from San Fran- 
cisco area colleges hired a boat and 
slipped onto the island. They 
stayed only until the next morning, 
departing when warned of arrest by 
the GSA. 

One of the participants in that 
first incursion was La Nada Means, 
a 23-year-old Bannock girl from Fort 
Hall, Idaho, and a pre-law student 
at the University of California's 
Berkeley campus. 

La Nada said that first night 
"was like running away from board- 
ing school — kind of exciting and 
scary and challenging." 

She described how the group 
hired a boat, "assuring the captain 
we were going to a religious meet- 
ing. He didn't seem to get the 
vibrations of a religious meeting, 
though — not after he saw our 
crowd. But he took us anyway." 

Another invader, Linda Aranaydo, 
a 2 1 -year-old Creek girl and a senior 
at Berkeley, said the captain de- 
manded three dollars from each pas- 
senger. "So whoever had three dol- 
lars got on the island," she laughed. 

After their arrival on the dark 
prison complex, the landing party 
divided into three groups in order 
to avoid all getting caught at the 
same time. "We walked along in 
the moonlight, creeping next to the 
walls. When we heard a noise we 
would flatten on the ground. It was 
eery," Linda related. 

La Nada noted that in the morn- 
ing the invaders came across a 
rather well-dressed scarecrow. 
"Linda had just a summer blouse, so 
she took the scarecrow's shirt. Joe 
Bill, he took the pants because they 
were better than his." 

A short time later, the group ran 
into reporters, who told them the 
Coast Guard had arrived on the 
island with representatives of the 
GSA. "We went and hid in the 
bushes," La Nada related. "Then 
two guys in suits chased me. They 
had a radio and were calling me 
'Indian female — unknown.' " 

Warned they would be arrested 
if they did not voluntarily leave 
Alcatraz, the invaders "decided to 
go back and organize some more," 
according to La Nada. "So we went 
back and got things together." Two 
weeks later, the Indians landed in 
force. And this time they stayed. 

From that obviously impromiDtu 
beginning, the occupation of Afca- 
traz has taken on at least the dream, 
if not the reality, of permanence. 

The inhabitants have incorporated 
under the title: "Indians of All 
Tribes." They have elected a gov- 
erning council, all but one member 
under 30 years of age. Intent on r 
staying, the participants have drawn 

Smokestack of peace 


I ^^^;f'~'V^'r 


up plans for the long-range use of 
their new habitat. 

In February, they presented a 
proposal to the government for a 
grant of $300,000 to plan an In- 
dian university and cultural center. 
Included would be: (I) a center for 
native American studies, with a 
"traveling university" to carry re- 
search and education to reserva- 
tions throughout the country; (2) 
a spiritual center to practice an- 
cient tribal ceremonies; (3) a cen- 
ter of ecology to train and support 
young people in research and prac- 
tice to restore lands and waters to 
their natural state; (4) a training 
school to teach Indians how to make 
a living, improve their standard of 
living, and end Indian hunger and 
unemployment; (5) a museum that 
would depict Indian food and cul- 
tural contributions and show the 
"noble and tragic events of Indian 
history, including the broken treat- 
ies, the Trail of Tears, the Massacre 
of Wounded Knee, as well as the 
victory over Yellow Hair Custer 
and his army." 

Recognizing that their ambitious 
proposals will take a great deal of 
money — eventually running into 
the millions — the Indians expressed 
the hope of getting aid from both 
governmental and private agencies. 
Just occupying the island in its 
present state — without heat or ade- 
quate electricity — is costing more 
than $2000 a week. 

Church and labor organizations 
have been among the project's prin- 
cipal supporters, but individual per- 
sons have helped too. One con-L 
tributor was Buffy Sainte-Marie, the 
popular Cree folksinger, who held a 


Marilyn Maracle at cell block 

^'- j*B^^?i 


benefit concert at Stanford Univer- 
sity a short time after the invasion, 
raising more than $2000 in a single 
performance. She also performed 
on the island for the invaders. 

Miss Sainte-Marie showed a mili- 
tant identification with the Alca- 
traz venture. "We intend to use it 
as a home base. We intend to get 
things done without the advice of 
government organizations, which 
have done nothing but perpetuate 


cycles of poverty. We intend to 
take over Indian affairs." 

She said she foresaw Alcatraz be- 
ing used as an organizing base for 
coping with what she described as 
"the emergencies that arise in na- 
tive America every day" — crises 
such as the Washington state gov- 
ernment's denial of treaty-guaran- 
teed off-reservation fishing rights to 
the Nisqually tribe or the federal 
government's plan to flood part of 



the Round Valley reservation in 
northern California by the construc- 
tion of a dam on the Eel River. 

"It's a new day for native Ameri- 
cans," Miss Sainte-Marie asserted. 
"There are many of our people who 
speak out now, whereas it used to 
be the Society of Friends, the do- 
gooders, who spoke for us, often 
where they had no right or real 
knowledge of our problems. Now 
we are speaking for ourselves. 

"If a non-Indian wants to help 
Indians, please tell him to straighten 
out non-Indian America," the singer 
advised. "It's the only answer to 
the 'Indian problem.' " 

While unquestionably stimulating 
interest and concern among whites, 
the invasion of Alcatraz has fired the 
imaginations of Indians across the 
country. "It's the best damn thing 
since Custer's last stand," pro- 
claimed Lehman L Brightman, 39- 

La Nada Means 


A hai - A hat - A hai 

Our women are brave on Alcafrai 
They work like the hard North Wind 

A hai - A hai - A hai 

Our women are genfle on Alcafraz 
They sway like the sweef South Wind 

A hai - A hai - A hai 

Our women are wise on Akafrai 
They sing tike ihe fresh East Wind 

A hai - A hoi - A hai 

Our women are loving on Alcafraz 
They smile like the warm West Wind 

O, women o/ Alcafraz! 

-Lone Wolf Blackfoof 
November 25. }969 









In school they treated us like dumb kids 

year-old director of the native 
American studies progrann at Berke- 
ley and a great-grandson of, in his 
words, "one of the few Indians killed 
in the battle with Custer." 

Brightman, a Cheyenne Agency 
Sioux from South Dakota with a 
master's degree in education, was 
interviewed in his campus office. 
Brightman noted proudly that 20 

j of his 23 Indian students had been 
among the Alcatraz invading force. 
"I didn't think it would work," he 

^ said, "but I was proved wrong." 
The director fairly glowed as he 
pointed out that the invasion was 
carried out "by young Indians, 
without bloodshed or violence, and 
they knew they could be sent to 
prison for it. It took a lot of guts." 

"This Alcatraz thing has focused 
a tremendous amount of attention 
on the Indian, and it's been a tre- 

! mendous help," Brightman main- 

I tained. "We've been able to bring 
out a lot of problems. I've never 
seen so many newspaper men and 
media people in my life. Nobody 
listened to us before, but when we 
jumped on Alcatraz, every third 
person out there was a newsman." 

If, eventually, the government 
does turn over the island to its oc- 
cupiers, Brightman said he felt "it 
owes them the money to set up 
something worthwhile on it. It will 
take millions, and it will be just a 
gimmick if they don't give us the 
money. We need a lot of help; we 
can't do it alone." 

The appeal of the Alcatraz occu- 
pation showed among the occupiers 
too. During a break in a fast-moving 

basketball game taking place near 
the old guards' quarters, I spoke 
with two brothers, Ray and Ken 
McCloud, 16 and 19, who had 
hitchhiked from Washington state. 
It took them 30 hours. Remarked 
Ken: "I think it's cool. Since it's 
an Indian island, we're here to 
help." "They need guys to help 
clean up this place," added his 
brother. They planned to stay sev- 
eral weeks, until it was time for 
them to return to school. 

Marilyn Maracle, a 2 1 -year-old 
Mohawk girl, traveled from Okla- 
homa, where she was employed in 
a poverty program, to help on the 
island. She viewed the project as an 
effort by Indian youth to "reject 
white culture and attempt to return 
to the Indian style of life." 

Marilyn spoke of the stresses In- 
dian young people face today. She 
said she herself had spent four 
months in mental institutions. "All 
kinds of things led to that, but what 
keeps cropping up is the identity 
problem and trying to establish my- 
self as an Indian in the white com- 
munity. You sit there and you say, 
'I'm an Indian and I don't know what 
that means.' " 

It appeared that the long-dis- 
tance record for travel to Alcatraz 
was held by Douglas Remington, a 
24-year-old Southern Ute from 
Colorado. Remington, who was 
raised on one of the country's few 
economically-sound reservations and 
who graduated from Boston and 
Yale universities with a master's de- ^ 
gree in English education, was ^ 
teaching at the University of 

Teaching at Big Rock Elementary Schc 


Ken and Ray McCloud hitchhiked 
fronn Washington state 

Madrid In Spain when he read in a 
newspaper about the island inva- 
sion. Several days later, he was on 
a plane flying to San Francisco. 

"It's a beautiful island, the whole 
concept is beautiful," Remington as- 
serted on his way out to Alcatraz 
after a brief visit to the mainland. 
"The 1960s was the generation of 
social revolution. The blacks have 
done it, and now we're doing it. It's 
just a first step, but Indians can nov/ 
stand up and be counted. Now 
they can really think of themselves 
as human beings. It's a new breed 
of Indian — here and everywhere." 

Remington directs the elementary 
school set up on the island for 
the children of the inhabitants. 
State curriculum guides are fol- 
lowed strictly for grades I through 
7 and Indian teachers are fully qual- 
ified and accredited. 

Remington stressed the impor- 
tance of the young Indians' par- 
ticipation. "They're more aware 
now of what's happening, more 
involved," he said. "The old people 
used to have the say — like on tribal 
councils. But now young people are 
having their say. And they should 
have a voice on the reservations. 
They are the future and should be 
brought up to hold the reins of 
leadership. Sure, they'll make mis- 
takes, but the old people did too." 

Remington pointed to changes on 
his own reservation, noting that the 
minimum age for membership on 
the Tribal Council used to be 30; 
now, it's 25. "And you used to have 


to be 35 to be chairman, but after 
we picketed and petitioned, we got 
that down to 30." 

Gazing at the boat arriving at 
the dock to take him back to the 
island. Remington mused: "At first, 
Alcatraz was a symbol to us, but it's 
not anymore. Now, it's real. I hope 
something really comes out of this." 

Back on the island, I talked to La 
Nada Means about why Alcatraz 
meant so much to her. The occupa- 
tion, she replied "means a lot of 
things. It's something that reflects 


my whole life. It goes back to when 
I was young." 

On her family's reservation in 
Idaho, her father was a "jack of all 
trades" who worked mostly for 
meals, with the result that "we 
didn't have any money for the 
home," La Nada said. He had been 
chairman of the Tribal Council but 
was ousted for "bucking the bu- 
reau" — the federal Bureau of Indian 
Affairs, which administers reserva- 
tions throughout the country, and 
has strong paternalistic authority 

over Indians everywhere. 

Describing the hunger she knew 
as a child. La Nada related: "There 
was a tree in the corner of our yard. 
I'd chew on the leaves. And there 
was a weed that tasted like cab- 
bage. I'd sit out there with my salt 
shaker. Man, I was hungry." As a 
result of malnutrition, she con- 
tracted rickets and still walks with 
a slight impairment. 

She'll never forget the prejudice 
of the white people in the small 
towns around the reservations, es- 





I m Indian and don t know what that means 


pecially the stores with signs in 
their windows reading "No Indians 
or Dogs Allowed." 

La Nada's education in public, 
church and boarding schools was 
one long misadventure — a small 
part of what Senator Edward M. 
Kennedy's subcommittee on Indian 
education has called "a national 
tragedy." She went to schools in 
Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and 
South Dakota and was tossed out of 
each — one after less than a day. "It 
was phoney and I knew it. They 
treated us like dumb little Indian 
children. Led us around like we 
didn't have any minds of our own. I 
just didn't learn anything." 

At one church-related school, ac- 
cording to the student, "they had a 
class in laundry — they called it 
'home economics.' You would wash 
and iron and do all the bedding for 
the dormitories. Then they would 
send you to the headmaster's or 
headmistress's home and you would 
be their servant. I didn't go there 
to be a servant." At another school, 
she made the honor roll but was still 
expelled after two months — the 
headmistress said she didn't "fit in." 

Lacking a diploma, La Nada took 
a high school equivalency exam, 
scored well and was admitted to 
Idaho State University. She stayed 
only one semester, however, then 
moved to San Francisco, where she 
lived with a friend and tried to find 
work. "The BIA said it couldn't help 
me because I didn't come on the 
relocation program" — a plan 
whereby the bureau pays usually ill- 
prepared Indians to move from 

reservations to urban centers, gives 
them some job training and finds 
them often ill-paid work. "The em- 
ployment office said they wouldn't 
refer me because I didn't dress well 
enough," she said. 

She finally got work as a bar- 
maid. At 17 she was pregnant. 
After having the baby, she returned 
to Idaho. But a short time later was 
back in San Francisco — this time 
enrolled in the BIA relocation pro- 
gram. "I just didn't want to be 
stuck on the reservation," she noted. 
She worked at several jobs, got 
married, had another child and then 
separated from her husband. In 
1968, she was admitted to the Uni- 
versity of California's Educational 
Opportunity Program for minority 
students. Taking part in the Third 
World student strike for an ethnic 
studies department (the native 
American studies program was set 
up as a consequence of that strike), 
she was arrested for assault and re- 
ceived a suspended sentence. She 
was also suspended from school but 
was later readmitted. 

Now, La Nada is intent on spe- 
cializing in federal Indian law. "If I 
want to do something effective for 
my people, I've got to know what 
the laws are," she said "so the law 
works for you and not against you, 
so no Indian is sent to prison for 
nothing. Everyone I've grown up 
with is in prison; they're so wasted. 
We've got to get a hold of the laws 
controlling us. We've got to know 
what's going on." She hopes that ^ 
eventually Alcatraz will have a uni- r 
versity with its own law department. 

Linda Aranaydo was one of the original "invader 



Down /o fhe shore our people come 
Following sounds of the Indian drum 
For this is a day of victory — 
Sfioshone, Yakama and Cree! 

In our peoples' eyes, a new spirit gleams 
The shining hope of old, old dreams 
For we are proud of our young men 
Porno, Blood and Algonquin! 

Our children laugh and sing our song 
The people dance all day long, 
Around fhe Island our people walk 
Blackfoof, Apache and brave Mohawk! 

Across fhe wafers of fhe gleaming Bay 
Our people come throughout the day 
To laugh and dance the long night through 
Paiufe, Navaho and Sioux! 

O, my people, hear our drums 
The drums of Alcafrai! 

—Lone Wolf, Bbckfoof 
December I, 1969 









It s the best thing since Custer^s last stand 


To La Nada, the occupation of 
Alcatraz was "a way of letting peo- 
ple know what we're about, to let 
them know our situation, that too 
nnuch discrimination has been going 
on in the cities. Now people at 
least know we're alive." 

What is the situation of the In- 
dian today? His average life span 
is 44 years, compared to 71 for 
his white brothers. The average 
yearly income of Indian families 
on reservations is $1500 — half the 
national poverty level. Average 
schooling is 5'/2 years, much less 
than that of both the black and 
the Mexican American. Unemploy- 
ment is low and most reservation 
housing is rated substandard. The 
Indians have the highest birth rate, 
infant mortality rate, and suicide 
rate in the U. S. 

Fractionalized by tribal differ- 
ences, Indian leaders have been 
slowed in efforts to unite the more 
than 650,000 Indians in the U.S. to 
tackle such problems. Under treaty 
status, 315 Indian tribal groups in 
26 states still function as quasi- 
sovereign nations. 

The story of many of the Alca- 
traz inhabitants reflect this over- 
all situation. For example, Judy 
and Winston Scraper and their two 
children moved from Oklahoma to 
San Francisco on the BIA relocation 
program. They were told of "the 
land of opportunity" in California, 
Judy, a 26-year-old Shawnee, re- 
called, "but we were borrowing 
more than we were making. It was 
such a big disappointment." 

When the Alcatraz invasion oc- 

curred, the Scrapers gave up their 
house and furniture and moved their 
remaining belongings onto the 
island. "I went out there out of 
curiosity and just stayed," she said. 
"It was such a beautiful idea — that 
all Indian people would unite for a 
just cause. Now it's my home and 
my hope for a a better future. If 
the government puts us off the is- 
land, I'll have no place to go." 

The question of whether the gov- 
ernment would indeed put the In- 
dians off the island remained an 
open one. 

From the outset the General 
Services Administration has held 
that the Indians are trespassing. On 
the other hand, agency officials 
have stated there are no present 
plans to evict the invaders. In Jan- 
uary, the Nixon Administration 
assigned Robert Robertson, a non- 
Indian and executive director of the 
new, federally-sponsored National 
Council on Indian Opportunity, to 
negotiate with the occupiers. 

Under Robertson, the govern- 
ment rejected the Indians' proposal 
to build a cultural, educational and 
spiritual center on Alcatraz. In- 
stead, the government responded 
with a plan to turn the island into 
a park that would have "maximum 
Indian qualities." 

In early April, the Indians re- 
jected the park plan and gave the 
government until May 3 1 to make 
a counterproposal. If it does not, 
the Indians say, they will draw up 
their own ownership deed "by right ^ 
of discovery" (a ruse used by whites ^ 
to claim former Indian lands) and 

Lehman Brighfman, director of native American studies at Berkeley 


seek private funds to develop the 

Said John Trudell, a spokesman, 
"We will no longer be museum 
pieces, tourist attractions, and poli- 
tician's playthings. There will be 
no park on this island, because it 
changes the whole meaning of what 
we are here for." 

Earlier, when I asked whether 
there was a possibility the govern- 
ment might turn over the island to 
the occupants (one highly-placed 

Nixon adviser is said to favor such 
a course), Robertson replied: "I 
don't know — there might be." But 
he added quickly: "Do you know 
how much money would be in- 
volved? It would take $7 million to 
$10 million just to clear it off and 
put the utilities out. In government, 
you have to weigh the priorities. 
... A piece of the pie is better 
than none at all." 

Some people may object to a 
priority of federal spending to aid 


such a project, "yet Health, Edu- 
cation and Welfare gave out $10 
million last year to non-Indians to 
study Indians," observes Vine Del- 
oria, Jr., a Standing Rock Sioux 
and author of the new book, Custer 
Died for Your Sins. "Not one dol- 
lar went to an Indian scholar or 
researcher to present the point of 
view of Indian people. And the 
studies done by non-Indians added 
nothing to what was already knov/n 
about Indians." 

Rosemary Whitewater 

Formerly executive director of 
the National Council of American 
Indians, Mr. Deloria reports in the 
New York Times Magazine, "By 
making Alcatraz an experimental 
Indian center operated and planned 
by Indian people, we would be 
given a chance to see what we 
could do toward developing answers 
to modern social problems." 

In the face of bureaucratic hesi- 
tation, Democratic Representative 
George E. Brown Jr., whose own 
East Los Angeles constituency in- 
cludes many Mexican and Indian 
Americans, has introduced in Con- 
gress a resolution urging President 
Nixon to begin negotiations to turn 
over Alcatraz to its occupiers. The 
bill has ten co-sponsors. 

In his remarks before the House, 
Representative Brown noted that 
patronizing governmental policies 
have only further alienated Indians 
and destroyed their "rich culture." 
Indians, he asserted, "consistently 
rank as the poorest, most illiterate, 
short-lived and distant members of 
our society. 

"Therefore, Alcatraz is critically 
important," he said, "Unfortunately 
— and tragically — the government 
has failed them. Now, Indians have 
decided peacefully to take destiny 
into their own hands." 

Representative Brown's resolution 
was referred to the House Commit- 
tee on the Interior, where, accord- 
ing to one Washington observer, it 
is likely to receive little favorable 
attention unless public pressure is 
brought to bear. It was suggested 
that citizens write their own con- 
gressmen to urge support for the 
resolution. Letters also could be 



They should make this the capital oF Indians 


directed to President Nixon calling 
for him to turn over Alcatraz to its 
new residents. (For information or 
contributions, write to Alcatraz Re- 
lief Fund, 4339 California St., San 
Francisco, Calif.) 

The Indians themselves have 
rather pointedly offered to buy the 
island — for $24 worth of glass beads 
and red cloth, "a precedent set by 
the white man's purchase of a simi- 
lar island about 300 years ago. We 
know that $24 in trade goods for 
these 16 acres is more than was 
paid when Manhattan Island was 
sold," they added wryly, "but we 
know that land values have risen 
over the years. Our offer of $1.24 
per acre is greater than the 47 cents 
the white men are now paying the 
California Indians for their land." 
They also offered to set aside a 
portion of the island for whites. It 
would be administered by a "Bureau 
of Caucasian Affairs." 

In another sharply-pointed com- 
mentary, the occupiers scoffed at 
government assertions that the is- 
land is both unsafe and unsuitable 
for their use. The Indians noted 
caustically that the "rock" merely 
resembles most Indian reservations 
in that "it is isolated from modern 
facilities and without adequate 
means of transportation; it has no 
fresh running water; it has inade- 
quate sanitation facilities; there are 
no oil or mineral rights; there is no 
industry, and so unemployment is 
very great; there are no health 
care facilities; the soil is rocky and 
non-productive; there are no edu- 
cational facilities . . . (and) the 

population has always been held as 
prisoners and kept dependent upon 

Still, they noted in summary, if 
Alcatraz were turned over to its oc- 
cupiers, "this tiny island would be a 
symbol of the great lands once 
ruled by free and noble Indians." 

At the end of one of the Alcatraz 
young people's frequent ball games, 
a group of youth strolled up the 
hillside path to the main cell block, 
where they were scheduled to help 
prepare the evening meal. 

"Here you can just do your own 
thing and feel good about it," re- 
marked Susan Hannan, a 2 1 -year- 
old Yurok girl from northern Cali- 
fornia and a student at Berkeley. 
"It's your choice," she said. "You 
can make whatever you want to out 
of it, and our people do want to 
make something." 

If the government does plan to 
remove the Indians from the island, 
according to Sue, they will have to 
physically carry off a lot of people 
— including herself. "My heart's in 
this cause," said she firmly. 

Several of the young people 
speculated that the government 
was playing a waiting game — hop- 
ing that the inhabitants would tire 
of their project and leave the is- 
land of their own accord. 

That wasn't likely, opined 15- 
year - old Rosemary Whitewater. 
"We came out here to help our 
people, and we're not going to get 
tired," she declared. "We think 
Alcatraz should be a place for In- 
dians, and we're really going to get 
things going here." 


Tom Pox at Sunday pow-v/ov 



i'. I, 





You gave us a freafy and fook our land 
And you stole our children away — 
Our water turned bad, the wind blew sands 
The white man had come to stay! 

Then the corn gave out and the buffalo died 
And our children slept alone, 
Black were our faces, our women cried 
And our young men started to roam! 

The whiskey was cheap, the food was high 
And our horses starved in the field. 
For when people are beaten, people will die 
And the fate of our tribes was sealed! 

Our spirits were crippled as broken wings 
The bright land turned to dust 
You gave us the Bible and some old things 
And ordered us to learn to trust! 

Aii, we signed your treaty and burned our tent 
And waited for promises to be kept 
We heard your words; we learned what they meant 
Our brothers drank and our mothers wept! 

But, today our young men from all of the tribes 
Hold this place as Indian Land. 
Take back your treaty, take back your bribes 
On this Island, together we stand! 

—Lone Wolf. Blackfoot 
December 2. 1969