The Occupation of Alcatraz
Photo Gallery 1

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Photo Gallery 1


by Professor Troy Johnson
California State University, Long Beach

(click on the images fort a larger picture)



Loose barbed wire hung free all over the island. The wind played with it, and the singing sound of the wire could be heard everywhere.

Occupiers on the dock.
Belvia Cottier (Sioux) and a young friend on Alcatraz, May 31, 1970. Cottier assisted in the planning of the 1964 and 1969 occupations of Alcatraz Island.

Indian people and their supporters wait for the ferry.
Indian boys stand amidst the empty prison cells in the main cellblock.

This young Navajo man came from Arizona to join the occupation. It was his first time away from the reservation.
Norren and Meade Chibathi, Comanche Indians from Oklahoma, spent time on Alcatraz in 1970, teaching Indian music and dance.


Waiting for the boat in the fog is Ed Castillo on the right (wrapped in a blanket). With him is Gail Treppa, a Pomo Indian woman. Ed is now a professor in the Native American studies program at Sonoma (California) State University. In the middle are Sue Tiger and her sister. Sue died in1992.
The spirit of Alcatraz spread far, as demonstrated by this Paiute Indian from Nevada.


An Indian occupier waits for a boat to the mainland. Island residents often traveled back and forth to attend school, to work on the mainland, or just to take showers and relax.
Two Indian children play on abandoned Justice Departmant equipment on Alcatraz Island, 1970

Eighteen-year-old Oohosis and friend stand at Pier 40 after the removal. "The Indians were finally standing up and really doing something against what the government has done to us."
One of the last occupiers leaves Alcatraz Island, June 11, 1971.



For many people, the occupation was the first time they had been surrounded by other Indian people. The experience was one of cultural renewal, exhilaration, and a new-found sense of Indianness.
The fog comes in over Alcatraz. An Indian woman walks toward the Ira Hayes House on the lower level of the island.


On the mainland, on June 11,1971, Harold Patty (left), a Paiute Indian from Nevada, and Oohosis (second from left), a young Cree Indian from Canada, join two friends in demonstrating that the spirit will continue.
This drawing indicates that the government had forcibly taken back - "ripped off" - Alcatraz Island. "Hoka Hay!!" translates roughly as "It Is Over." This poster appeared in Berkeley, California, the morning after the removal.
In this view of Alcatraz from an approaching boat, the main cellblock is clearly visible on the upper level of the island.
Alcatraz Island appeared this way from a passing boat following the June 1970 fire. Note the burned-out buildings and scorched lighthouse on the upper level.

Leaders of the occupation met in this tipi to consider government offers and to plan responses.
Michael Leach (Colville/Sioux) stand in the boat on the way to Alcatraz Island.
Signs hung on the dock on Alcatraz Island read, from left to right, "Red Power. Indians," "Human Rights, Free Indians," "Remember this land was taken from us!" "Alcatraz for Indians."
An Indian man arrives at Pier 40 on the mainland following the removal in June 1971. Indians of All Tribes operated a receiving facility on Pier 40, where donated materials were stored and where Indian people could wait for boats to transport them to Alcatraz Island.
On Alcatraz Island, May 31, 1970, an unidentified Indian woman waits for the ferry.
An Indian woman on Alcatraz Island.


Alcatraz Island!
The industries building on the lower level of Alcatraz Island was in bad repair and very dangerous.
William Lope (Pit River/Pomo) and a playmate run into the sunshine.
Donna Cottier, daughter of Belvia Cottier, stands with a young Chicano friend on Alcatraz Island in 1970. An occupier, arriving on the mainland after the June 11, 1971 removal, is greeted by the press.

reprinted from The American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island

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Photo Collection Two


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Atha Rider Whitemankiller at the Senator Hotel in San Francisco after the removal. Whitemankiller was a courageous and eloquent speaker to the press that day. His face reflects the disappointment felt by those who occupied the island for nineteen months but lost the final battle.

A group of Indian people at Pier 40 following the June 1971 removal.

Overcoming exhaustion and disillusionment, young Atha Rider Whitemankiller (Cherokee) stands tall before the press at the Senator Hotel. His eloquent words about the purpose of the occupation - to publicize his people's plight and establish a land base for the Indians of the Bay Area - were the most quoted of the day.

Stella Leach, a Colville/Sioux woman, took a leave of absence from her job at the All Indian Well Baby Clinic in Berkeley, California, to participate in the occupation of Alcatraz Island, where she operated a health clinic for island residents.

Indians painted "FREE" on the federal shield above the entrance to the main cellblock.

A chartered boat, the Sea Dog, carries supplies and Indians to Alcatraz Island. Donations were collected at Pier 40 and shuttled to the island.

Written messages appeared in cellblocks, on concrete walls, on apartment walls, and on most surfaces that could be viewed by passing boats.

An Indian's viewpoint of the discovery of America.

A new sense of Indianness and pride in being an American Indian arose as a result of the Alcatraz occupation.

This message was painted on the door of the apartment belonging to Richard Oakes, a Mohawk Indian who is recognized as having been one of the early planners and leaders of the Alcatraz occupation.

Although Alcatraz is a former penitentiary, many of those involved in the occupation experienced a feeling of freedom. While they were on the island, they were free from government control and regulation, and free to make their own choices.

This message was left by a member of the Walla Walla tribe of Washington State. An occupier's view of the San Francisco Bay fills the background.

Words painted on an apartment door indicate that it is "Rave's Pad." The people who took up residency on the island often identified living spaces individually or by tribal group.

A traditional Navajo greeting written on a wall.

Ronald Loureiro, a Klamath Indian from Oregon, participated in the occupation and left a reminder that he had been on the island.

A sleeping bag can be seen through an apartment window. A Klamath Indian claimed occupancy.

Dallas Duncan lived here.

A California Pit River Indian left his or her mark on the island. Soon the Pit River people would be involved in their own attempt to regain traditional lands that had been taken from them.

A message from the O.I.U., the Organization of Indian Unity, urges Indians of all tribes to unite.

This symbol was drawn on the ceiling of a cell in the main cellblock.

A drawing of Alcatraz Island shows the island returned to a natural state. While some called for establishment of an Indian university and culture center on the island, others wanted to see all structures removed.

The main cellblock contained this movie theater.

This poignant thought was left behind on Alcatraz Island.

Drawing on a wall.

These markings on a cell ceiling in the main cellblock were painted with smoke from handmade torches.

Graffiti in the main cellblock.

Alcatraz occupation graffiti.

This message was left behind by an Indian occupier.

This drawing shows Alcatraz Island as Indian land and a polluted San Francisco as "White Man Power."

This symbol was left on a wall by a member of the Indian Organization of America. Alcatraz Island was occupied by a group of people initially known as Alcatraz Indians, then as Indians of All Tribes, and ultimately as Indians of All Tribes, Inc.

The Wrecking Crew was a Berkeley, California, band that visited Alcatraz Island and played a concert on the island pier.

An Indian youth views San Francisco from the road leading to the upper level of Alcatraz Island.

A young Indian girl stands on the upper level of Alcatraz. Visible in the background are the apartment buildings that housed many of the residents during the occupation. Across the bay is San Francisco.

Indian people wait on a San Francisco pier for a boat to Alcatraz.

Indian occupiers work to bring supplies onto Alcatraz. The island has no natural resources, so all supplies, fuel, and water had to be ferried over form the mainland and transported up the island by hand.

The Alcatraz dock and San Francisco Bay are visible through this broken apartment window.

A proclamation on Alcatraz Island tells new arrivals where they are.

A non-Indian government caretaker remained on the island during the early month of the occupation. The Indian occupiers stated that they would establish a Department of Indian, Bureau of White Affairs.

An unidentified Indian person wearing an Alcatraz jacket walks on the lower level of the island. To the right is the apartment building later known as the "Ira Hayes House." It was in a stairwell of this building that thirteen- year-old Yvonne Oakes fell to her death. Yvonne was the daughter of Annie Oakes and the stepdaughter of Richard Oakes.