American Indian Movement’s demands during their occupation of Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, Ca, 1969 (primary source document)

The American Indian Movement (AIM) received worldwide attention in November 1969, when a group of 300 Indian activists occupied Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to publicize the Indian cause. The activists demanded title to Alcatraz under provision of an 1882 act that stated that abandoned federal facilities (such as the empty prison on the island) should be utilized for Indian schools. AIM issued this statement.

The following is an excerpt from the proclamation “To the Great White Father and All His People,” written by an activist who occupied Alcatraz Island.

We, the Native Americans, re-claim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery. . . . We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for twenty-four dollars [$24] in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man’s purchase of a similar island [Manhattan] about 300 years ago.

We feel that this so-called Alcatraz Island is more suitable for an Indian Reservation, as determined by the white man’s own standards.

1. It is isolated from modern facilities, and without adequate means of transportation.

2. It has no fresh running water.

3. It has inadequate sanitation facilities.

4. There are no oil or mineral rights.

5. There is no industry and so unemployment is very great.

6. There are no health care facilities.

7. The soil is rocky and non-productive; and the land does not support game (animals).

8. There are no educational facilities.

9. The population has exceeded the land base.

10. The population has always been held prisoners and kept dependent upon others.


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4 Responses to American Indian Movement’s demands during their occupation of Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, Ca, 1969 (primary source document)

  1. Spencer Hartley says:

    who wrote this??? (i’m doing a report on alcaraz and this is my primary source)

    • The proclamation was issued by Native Americans who occupied Alcatraz Island in 1969 in protest of their conditions in America. The proclamation is signed “SIGNED, INDIANS OF ALL TRIBES
      November 1969 San Francisco, California.” I suggest researching the occupation of Alcatraz, and including some of the key figures, tribes, and organizations involved as a footnote. Best wishes on your report.

  2. Mary Kolb says:

    I was under the impression that the Indians of all Tribes was the group that occupied Alcatraz and that members of AIM showed up to show support. In everything I read AIM claims to have been there but never claims to have led the occupation. I also find interesting the claim that this occupation (standing alone) changed so many policies…..there were several things that contributed to this including the AIM movement. I am not by any means lessening the importance of the occupation of Alcatraz, I just do not see it being represented as part of the big picture. The parks website says,
    “As a result of the occupation, either directly or indirectly, the official government policy of termination of Indian tribes was ended and a policy of Indian self-determination became the official US government policy.”
    “Alcatraz may have been lost, but the occupation gave birth to a political movement which continues to today.”
    There are many other things that contributed to these policy changes that deserve equal recognition. The Indian Self Determination Act was signed in 1974. AIM contributed to this with the occupation of Wounded Knee and the BIA in Washington D.C. both of which had a direct impact on the policies in place today.
    In short the claim that AIM occupied Alcatraz is a misunderstanding.
    The 1969 occupation of Alcatraz contributed to new policies including Indian self-determination and contributed to political movements that were under way (see Richard McKenzie 1964) but other events that were led by AIM also made huge contributions.

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