This week marks 48 years since the Pit River Tribe ended their two-year occupation of Alcatraz Island.
Members publicly protested the state of Native American land rights that reverberated internationally, but that was only a small part of a long history of Native Americans in California resisting forced and often violent assimilation by colonial Americans.
Read a transcript of the conversation between Schneider and Ruyak below. The conversation also starts at 16 minutes.
On the occupation of Alcatraz Island
Beth: “So you’ll have to forgive how quickly I cover this really powerful story, but take us to Alcatraz Island and this occupation in the late 1960s and why that was also a flashpoint.
Khal: “I think it’s a turning point on a national scale. It’s a Californian story that’s happening in California – Californians are in on it. But I think it’s representative of a moment in Native American history in nationwide inter-tribal cooperation, a kind of pan-Indian identity of indigenous peoples recognizing during the 20th century that they have much in common, that they have a common, often painful history.
After World War II, urban Indian populations increased and the San Francisco Bay Area became one of the largest Indian population centers in the country. It’s people from all over: people from the Great Plains, people from Oklahoma, people from the Southwest and natives of California. And they recognized that shared identity and the recognition that their promises were kept – that there was a deep injustice.”
Beth: “In fact, there is a group forming called Indians of all tribes.”
Calvin: “Yes of course.
And it forms from places like inter-tribal friendship houses, community centers for urban Indian communities. What they have in common with a kind of immigration experience in 19th and early 20th century cities is that they come together from this diasporic experience to form a new identity, and c is a political identity. We need to engage the government more directly, so I think in terms of a turning point in terms of direct action protests in the name of historic injustice, that’s really important. This sets the tone for subsequent occupations of the 1970s and the occupation of Wounded Knee a little later. So I think that’s inspiring for a lot of young people who have these stories and who have this sense of identity and a sense of pride in their reality – their prospects for the future don’t match that sense of pride.”
Beth: “And the Pit River Tribe since then has been able to reoccupy some of the land, hasn’t it?”
Beth: “Which he originally lost or temporarily lost?”
For the next six months, Insight will host monthly segments exploring the history, culture, values, hardships and ways of life of our state’s Indigenous population.
Khal Schneider, Professor of Native American History in Sacramento State, and Calvin Hedrick, Director of the 5th Direction, join the premiere of California Native with an in-depth look at the history of California’s Native people.