Alcatraz as Native Land

In the 1960s, Native Americans attempted to reclaim Alcatraz, citing an 1868 treaty that granted Native Americans any surplus federal land. Their activism crested in 1969, when several dozen Native Americans began a 19-month occupation, supported by public opinion and friendly media.

The group offered to buy the island from the government for $24 worth of beads and other goods—exactly what Native Americans had been paid for Manhattan in 1626. In their "Proclamation: To the Great White Father and All His People," the group laid out the 10 reasons why Alcatraz was suitable for an Indian reservation "by the white man’s own standards," among them: "There is no industry and so unemployment is very great," and "The soil is rocky and nonproductive, and the land does not support game." Federal agents removed the last holdouts in 1971, but each Thanksgiving Native Americans and others gather on the island to commemorate the takeover. In 2013 the park service restored the protesters' fading graffiti on the water tower, and today's visitors are still greeted with the huge message: "Indians Welcome. Indian Land."

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