Of all tribes American Indians and Alcatraz

Joseph Bruchac, 1942-

Book - 2023

"On November 20, 1969, a group of 89 Native Americans-most of them young activists in their twenties, led by Richard Oakes, LaNada Means, and others-crossed San Francisco Bay under the cover of darkness. They called themselves the "Indians of All Tribes." Their objective was to occupy the abandoned prison on Alcatraz Island ("The Rock"), a mile and a half across the treacherous waters. Under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie between the U.S. and the Lakota tribe, all retired, abandoned, or out-of-use federal land was supposed to be returned to the Indigenous peoples who once occupied it. As Alcatraz penitentiary was closed by that point, activists sought to reclaim that land, and more broadly, bring greater attention ...to the lies and injustices of the federal government when it came to Indian policy. Their initial success resulted in international attention to Native American rights and the continuing presence of present-day Indigenous peoples, who refused to accept being treated as a "vanishing race". Over the protestors' 19-month occupation, one key way of raising awareness to issues in Native life was through Radio Free Alcatraz, which touched on: the forced loss of ancestral lands, contaminated water supply on reservations, sharp disparities in infant mortality and life expectancy among Native Americans compared to statistics in white communities, and many other inequalities. From acclaimed Abenaki children's book legend, Joseph Bruchac, this middle-grade nonfiction book tells the riveting story of that 1969 takeover, which inspired a whole generation of Native activists and ignited the modern American Indian Movement"--

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  • Preface
  • Chapter 1. Ohlone Land
  • Chapter 2. An American Conquest
  • Chapter 3. Exiled to Alcatraz
  • Chapter 4. Twenty-Nine Years as the Last Stop
  • Chapter 5. Centuries of Dishonor
  • Chapter 6. The Lakota Landing
  • Chapter 7. Three Activists
  • Chapter 8. Taking the Rock
  • Chapter 9. A First Thanksgiving
  • Chapter 10. Those Who Came
  • Chapter 11. After the Fall
  • Chapter 12. Nixon's Chief
  • Chapter 13. Taking it Back
  • Chapter 14. Waves After Alcatraz
  • Select Timeline
  • Author's Note
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Photography Credits
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

In November 1969, a group of Native Americans, including representatives from several tribes, peacefully took over Alcatraz Island. The island, historically an important spiritual site for local Indian communities, had been commandeered by the U.S. government in the mid-nineteenth century, used first as a fort, then as a prison, and then basically abandoned in 1963. Despite the lack of fresh water and the island's general state of disrepair, the Native American community continued to grow over the next 16 months, establishing an infrastructure (governing body, security, a clinic, school, and day care center) and hosting ceremonial celebrations and powwows that attracted thousands of visitors from all over the country. This history of American Indigenous peoples begins with pre-Western contact and documents their subsequent subjugation by outside powers, from Spanish conquistadors to the Mission system through broken treaties, relocations, boarding schools, and ongoing legal, judicial, and social discrimination. The Alcatraz occupation--the central event of the book--symbolized Native American unity and pride and emphasized a right to land that had been theirs for centuries. Although relatively brief, the occupation served as a catalyst for social and legislative affirmative action. This account is accessible and factual and offers vignettes and personal profiles that will resonate with readers. Photos, graphics, and rich back matter complement this narrative about an important milestone in American history.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 5 Up--Prolific author Bruchac presents the history and legacy of the 1960s Indian occupations of Alcatraz Island. Bruchac dedicates the first half of the narrative to the history of the island and vignettes of Native Americans who were imprisoned there or played major roles in its occupations. This history also touches on residential schools, colonization, and the Indian Removal Act. The second half of the book explores Alcatraz's occupations, with its primary focus being the 19-month Indians of All Tribes occupation in 1969 and 1970. The occupation's legacy is complex, and this section explores Alcatraz as a Native American "pilgrimage site"; the work of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon in regards to American Indians; many Native activists, including Richard Oakes and John Trudell; and sexism, erasure, and cultural appropriation of Native American culture by white people. Forty pages of back matter--including an extensive time line, references, and substantial index, and the contemporary and historical images included throughout--round out this densely packed, textbook-style presentation. Readers should expect a bit of jostling in the narrative's chronology and occasional conjecture, but the overall result is an illumination of what "turned out to be one of the most consequential events for Native Americans in the twentieth century." VERDICT Ideal for classroom use, this title provides an essential and frequently omitted voice to recent history.--Taylor Worley

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Alcatraz was not just a prison, but also a place where an idea became an Indigenous movement that persists today. The latest from Bruchac (Abenaki) focuses on the 1969 Native American occupation of Alcatraz. The book delivers a brief history of the San Francisco Bay Area, beginning with the Ohlone Tribe, the original occupants of the region. It then covers topics including Manifest Destiny, broken treaties, the Indian Removal Act, and the cultural genocide of the boarding schools, setting the stage for tensions leading up to the occupation. Bruchac notes Alcatraz's use as a prison where Native American men were unjustly imprisoned beginning in the late 19th century and traces Native rights movements leading up to November 1969, when a group of activists, mostly college students and people in their 20s, called the Indians of All Tribes, landed on Alcatraz, demanding its return. One chapter focuses on three leading figures, describng their rise. The closing chapter highlights the inspirational legacy of the Alcatraz occupation for subsequent Indian activists. Including archival photos and writing in an accessible tone, Bruchac strikes an ideal balance between allowing readers to engage with the story while also providing robust facts that make this a title with enough substance to be used as a reference for those seeking more information about this pivotal moment. A well-balanced, visually appealing, and well-contextualized account. (timeline, author's note, bibliography, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.