online book
Captain Jack
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of American Indians in California:

Hilltop Tavern
Alameda County

During and after World War II, the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocated American Indians from reservations to urban centers with the goal of assimilating them into the general population. Although urban areas provided more job possibilities, the move from isolated rural environments to large cities created other problems. The major difficulties were the unfamiliar surroundings, the different culture and lifestyle, and lack of friends. Not unlike immigrants from foreign lands, these displaced people sought out others with similar cultural and social traditions. They wanted information about their old homeland, and a suitable place to meet. Indians who were unable to find these things often ended up returning to the reservation.

Lacking the social services now available to new comers, Indians in Oakland established a meeting place at the Hilltop Tavern, 3411 MacArthur Boulevard. Privately owned and operated since the 1930s, it consists of three separate storefronts, two of which are recent additions. The tavern has a bar, a pool table area, a lounge, and a dance area. It displays posters and artwork by Indian artists. Jerry Davis, who once owned the tavern, said that the Hilltop was the Indian Center of Oakland before anyone thought of building one.

In the 1960s, the first American Indian Movement (AIM) meetings in the Bay Area took place here, and the Alcatraz takeover in 1969 was organized in the tavern.

Today more than 200,000 Indians live in California, over half of them from other states. Without social centers such as the Hilltop, fewer would have been willing to stay.

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Last Modified: Wed, Nov 17 2004 10:00:00 pm PDT

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