Political activism and cultural revival: 1960s to present dayIn the late 1950s and 1960s, government-sponsored relocation programs brought thousands of tribal people from other states to California cities. This made California ripe territory for the American Indian political and cultural movements that emerged in the late 1960s and swept across the country. After years of being forced to assimilate into the dominant society, American Indian activists fought to recover and maintain their cultural identity.
In November 1969 a group of American Indian activists occupied the island of Alcatraz in a political protest over the loss of Indian land and sovereignty. The occupiers claimed the island and the empty prison, referencing an old treaty that required surplus federal land to be returned to Native Americans. They also proposed the creation of an Indian university there.
The occupation of Alcatraz drew enormous media coverage and public attention during the almost 19 months it continued. In June 1971 the last occupiers were forced by the federal government to leave. While the occupiers did not succeed in obtaining the land, the occupation gave birth to a new wave of political action and cultural revival throughout the state and the nation.
“Alcatraz was symbolic in the rebirth of Indian people to be recognized as a people, as human beings, whereas before, we were not. We were not recognized, we were not legitimate. . . .but we were able to raise not only the consciousness of other American people, but of own people as well, to reestablish our identity as Indian people, as a culture, as political entities.” Dr. LaNada Boyer, Occupation Leader