American Indian Occupation - 50th Anniversary

In 1969, a group of Native American activists calling themselves the Indians of All Tribes arrived on Alcatraz Island. They spoke out against the U.S. Government's Termination Policy and the broader plight of Native Americans. GGNRA commemorates this moment in history, with 19 months of special events and an exhibition: Red Power on Alcatraz, Perspectives 50 Years Later.

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2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz by the Indians of All Tribes, a key event in the history of Alcatraz Island, the Native American civil rights movement, and our nation. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in collaboration with Indians of All Tribes, is planning 19 months of events and programming (to reflect the length of the Occupation), including:

Indians of All Tribes Days 2019: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Alcatraz Occupation

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 1:00pm - 4:00pm
November 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Occupation. The morning will include opening remarks and prayers, and the restoration of iconic political messaging on the island. Veteran Occupiers and their guests will also have a gathering and reunion on November 20 in the New Industries Building on Alcatraz. This is an opportunity for those who spent time on Alcatraz during the historic Occupation to reconnect -- some of them for the first time in 50 years. The afternoon event (1:00-4:00) will be open to the public and feature speakers connected to the historic Occupation.

Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 9:00am - 4:00pm
Veteran Occupiers will gather in the New Industries Building for a day-long gathering and speaking program, open to the public. Speakers will include veteran Occupiers and family members, who will share their experiences of this historic event and its continuing relevance. Event will be closed for lunch from 12:00pm-1:00pm.

Saturday, November 23, 2019 | 9:00am - 4:00pm
The new exhibit, Red Power on Alcatraz: Perspectives 50 Years Later, will be highlighted on Saturday, November 23. This day will feature an exhibit dedication, open houses with exhibitors: Ilka Hartmann and Stephen Shames, a presentation by Dr. LaNada War Jack and Kent Blansett, and a performance. Event will be closed for lunch from 12:00pm-1:00pm.

November 20, 2019 ­to June 2022, New Industries Building

Exhibit: Red Power on Alcatraz: Perspectives 50 Years Later

In 1969, a group of Native American activists called the Indians of All Tribes arrived on Alcatraz. Red Power on Alcatraz: Perspectives 50 Years Later tells the story of their 19 ­month occupation of the island, a watershed moment in the movement for Native American civil rights. For the 19 months duration of the exhibit, visitors can view photographs by Ilka Hartmann and Stephen Shames, original materials from the collection of Kent Blansett, and contributions from the community of veteran Occupiers.

Cultural Programs, 2nd Saturdays of each Month

During the Occupation, Native American Activists called for an Indian Cultural Center on Alcatraz Island. In keeping with this idea, cultural programs and activities will take place the 2nd Saturday of each month from December 2019 through June 2022. Visitors can participate in a variety of presentations, workshops, demonstrations, and activities led by former occupiers and Native American groups. Be sure to check the Alcatraz events calendar for current list of programs.

Indians of All Tribes, American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz, 50th Anniversary Commemoration

“Alcatraz put me back into my community and helped me remember who I am. It was a rekindling of the spirit. Alcatraz made it easier for us to remember who we are.”

Santee Sioux


Off-Island Commemorative Programming:

The organizations listed below are hosting events around the Bay Area in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Indian Occupation on Alcatraz Island. Visit the links below to find additional info (chronological):

Resounding Witchi Tai To, 1969-2019

The John-Carlos Perea Ensemble.
Date: Wednesday, October 16, 1PM-2PM
Location: Knuth Hall, Creative Arts Building, San Francisco State University.
Cost: FREE

A musical commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the song “Witchi Tai To” by the Creek and Kaw jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper (1941-1992).

Tommy Orange at the Koret

Sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and San Francisco Arts Commission.
Date: Wednesday, October 16, 6PM
Location: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street.
Cost: FREE

Award-winning novelist Tommy Orange will present his work and engage in a conversation with Poet Laureate, Kim Shuck onstage at the Koret Theater.

Landless in the Bay Area

With Corrina Gould (Confederated Villages of Lisjan), Ruth Orta (Ohlone/Bay Miwok/Plains Miwok) and Jonathan Cordero (Ramaytush Ohlone)
Date: -
Location: San Francisco Library (map)
Cost: FREE

Three leaders of traditional Bay Area territories will speak from the heart about historical and contemporary events that have left them landless and without federal recognition, the impact of this situation on their people, the work they are doing to reclaim culture and re-assert their claim to these lands, and why Indigenous presence matters as San Francisco emerges as one of the wealthiest cities on the planet and a hub for tech corporations and real estate speculation.

Native American Fashion Show

Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute and Sewam American Indian Dance.
Date: Saturday, October 26
Location: Pioneer Monument, 147 Fulton Street.
Cost: FREE

Indigenous Fashion designers Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene, Cree), the first Indigenous designer to show at Paris Fashion Week, Project Runway alumna Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo), and Leah Mata is a member of the yak tityu tityu (the people) Northern Chumash Tribe, located on the Central California Coast., will show their collection using the Pioneer Monument as a backdrop. Working in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute, the show will work to bring awareness to murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Native American Heritage Month, SF Public Library

Co-Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Public Library
Date: Saturday, October 26 – Saturday, November 30
Location: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street.
Cost: FREE

The San Francisco Arts Commission will partner with the Public Library to curate an exhibition and related programming featuring weekly Poetry Jams led by Poet Laureate Kim Shuck. The opening will coincide with the Native American Fashion Show taking place at the Pioneer Monument.

44th Annual American Film Festival

Co-sponsored by American Indian Film Institute and San Francisco Arts Commission
Date: Saturday, October 26 – Saturday, November 2. See website for show times.
Location: Films will be shown at BRAVA theater with the awards show at the Presidio Theater on November 2.
Cost: FREE

The American Indian Film Institute is the premiere Native American media and cultural arts exposition in the West Coast and its annual film festival is the world’s oldest forum dedicated to Native American cinema. The full schedule will be available Oct 1st.

Native American Heritage Month at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Community partnership: San Francisco International Airport, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the American Indian Film Institute
Date: Thursday, October 10 – Wednesday, December 4
Location: San Francisco International Airport; Terminal 3 mezzanine (photography), International Terminal Departures Lobby (film shorts). Both exhibitions are located pre-security and are available to all Airport visitors.
Cost: FREE

An exhibition of portraits from the Early Days Photo Shoot will be exhibited on the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, while shorts by Native American filmmakers we be presented at SFO Museum’s Video Arts screening room in the International Terminal Departures Lobby.

The Indigenous Environmental Movement

With Mark Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), Isabella Zizi (Northern Cheyenne, Arikara, Muscogee) and Melinda Micco (Seminole Nation of Oklahoma)
Date: -
Location: Exploratorium - Bay Observatory (map)
Cost: FREE

Three Indigenous activists will speak to the role of indigenous peoples in protecting water, land and biodiversity in the face of environmental and moral hazards including fossil fuel extraction and climate change.

Visual Presentation: Documenting the Occupation of Alcatraz

An Afternoon with Photographer Ilka Hartmann, sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library
Date: Saturday, November 09, 12:00 - 2:00
Location: Saroyan Gallery - 6th Floor, Main Library, 100 Larkin St.
Cost: FREE

Ms. Hartmann will talk about what it was like, as a freelance photographer, to visit Alcatraz, and to become friends with the occupiers.

The Indigenous Canoe Movement

With Lehua Kamalu (Native Hawaiian), Frank Brown (Heiltsuk) and L. Frank Manriquez (Tongva-Ajachmem)
Date: -
Location: California Historical Society (map)
Cost: FREE

A conversation with three Indigenous leaders from across North America rebuilding canoe and maritime traditions in their own communities. Lehua Kamalu, Kanaka Maoli, captained the Hikianalia, a traditional polynesian outrigger canoe on its recent voyage from Hawaii to California. Kamalu is the first woman to captain a traditional polynesian vessel. Frank Brown, Heiltsuk from Bella Bella, British Columbia, organized North America’s first Tribal Canoe Journey to coincide with Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, BC. Brown will talk about his original vision, what it took to launch the first Tribal Canoe Journey, and how the event has taken hold and grown in the 30+ years since. L. Frank Manriquez of the Tongva-Ajachmem is an artist, language activist and leader in the California Indian community. She was the first member of her nation to build and navigate a traditional tii’at in over 100 years and participates in the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys. All will also speak to the challenges and positive impacts of canoe culture on Indigenous communities and the environmental movement.

Alcatraz Reflections

The John-Carlos Perea Ensemble
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 1PM-2PM
Location: Knuth Hall, Creative Arts Building, San Francisco State University.
Cost: FREE

The premier of a new musical composition for Native American flute reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz Island.

Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration

Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with the American Indian Cultural Center and the Native American Health Center
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 5:30PM-7:30PM
Location: San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl.
Cost: FREE

This annual gathering honors American Indian culture by bringing together the American Indian community, local heroes, and political leaders who have worked to strengthen American Indian initiatives to celebrate with song, dance, and food. This year’s Celebration will feature the kick off for the American Indian Cultural Center of San Francisco.

The Occupation of Alcatraz

With Eloy Martinez and Lanada Warjack (Shoshone-Bannock)
Date: -
Location: Presidio Theatre (map)
Cost: FREE

A conversation with two original Alcatraz Occupiers about the context in which the Occupation occurred; energy and intent behind the Occupation; immediate impacts of the Occupation on policy, politics and culture in Indian Country; and reasons the Occupation is equally relevant 50 years later.

Untold and Intimate Stories of the Alcatraz Occupation

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Location: Latino/Hispanic Rms A & B, Main Library 100 Larkin St.
Cost: FREE

Join California Historical Society at the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Library for a powerful evening of stories from the Occupation of Alcatraz, in commemoration of its 50th anniversary. A group of original occupiers will tell the rich, untold stories of organizing and living on Alcatraz Island.

Native Heritage Social Gathering

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 4PM-8PM
Location: SFAC Main Gallery, 401 Van Ness, Ste. 126.
Cost: FREE

To remember and recognize the contributions of LGBTQ, Two-Spirit Native Americans.

Honoring 50 years of Activism featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie

Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with the, American Indian Film Festival and the American Indian Cultural Center
Date: Friday, November 22, 6PM-8PM
Location: Herbst Theater
Cost: FREE

This celebration will feature acclaimed recording artist Buffy Sainte-Marie and will honor activists that have led various Indigenous resistance movements over the last 50 years. The event will also include a reception in the SFAC Main Gallery, which will feature The Continuous Thread exhibition.

Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering

Sponsored by the International Indian Treaty Council
Date: Thursday, November 28, 6AM-10AM
Location: Alcatraz Island
Cost: Ferry Ticket. Purchase ferry boat tickets on-line from Alcatraz Cruises.

This event commemorates 527 years of Indigenous resistance and survival in the Americas, honors the cultural resiliency of Indigenous Peoples in California and around the world, and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Alcatraz by Indians of All Tribes in 1969-1970.

To make additions or modifications to this list, please contact e-mail us.

Last updated: October 15, 2019

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