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The occupation of Alcatraz Island by American Indians from November 20, 1969, through June 11, 1971, focused the attention of the world on Native Americans and helped develop pan-Indian activism. In this first detailed examination of the takeover, Troy Johnson tells the story of those who organized the occupation and those who participated, some by living on the island and others by soliciting donations of money, food, water, clothing, and other necessities. Johnson documents the unrest in the Bay Area urban Indian population that helped spur the takeover and draws on interviews with those involved to describe everyday life on Alcatraz during the nineteen-month occupation. To describe the federal government's reactions as Americans rallied in support of the Indians, he turns to federal government archives and Nixon administration files. The book is a must read for historians and others interested in the civil rights era, Native American history, and contemporary American Indian issues.
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On November 20, 1969, 89 young Native Americans laid claim to the former prison island of Alcatraz and used the ensuing 19-month occupation to broadcast their demands and raise awareness of grievances of their people. It was, says former Cherokee chief Wilma Mankiller, "liberating....I'd never heard anyone actually tell the world... that our people had given up an entire continent, and many lives, in return for basic services like health care and education, but nobody was honoring those agreements." Mankiller, Grace Thorpe, John Trudell et al. add breadth through interviews included in a chapter titled "Voices from Alcatraz." But the interviews were done by others during or soon after the occupation and Johnson missed a chance to make his book stronger by conducting more of his own interviews. Also, the narrative becomes disjointed when Johnson lumps government officials' reactions into one chapter instead of blending them with events as they unfolded. Still, the book provides illuminating, behind-the-scenes looks at Alcatraz's occupiers, the dreams that united them and realities that splintered them; the reaction of the Bay Area Native American community; and the White House efforts to solve a public relations dilemma. Included is an extensive summary of other Native American actions that grew out of the Alcatraz experience. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.Review:
"Illuminating, behind-the-scenes looks at Alcatraz's occupiers, the dreams that united them and realities that splintered them; the reaction of the Bay Area Native American community; and the White House efforts to solve a public relations dilemma. Included is an extensive summary of other Native American actions that grew out of the Alcatraz experience." -- Publishers Weekly
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