Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 20, 2019

Alcatraz to Standing Rock: Reclaiming land, water and life

Dr. LaNada War Jack

Alcatraz to Standing Rock: Reclaiming land, water and life

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- From Alcatraz to Standing Rock, the Native American rights movement has resulted in new federal laws and resulted in reclaimed lands and new realizations, said four Native Americans on an Indigenous Forum panel at the Bioneers Conference on Saturday. 
The panel -- From Alcatraz to Standing Rock, and Beyond: On the Past 50 and the Next 50 Years of Indigenous Activism -- described the ongoing destruction of industry, along with the value of the movements, making it clear that the economic paradigm of capitalism is the cause of the climate crisis.
Master of ceremonies Julian NoiseCat, Secwepmc, began by sharing news of the 50-year anniversary celebration of Alcatraz, and remembered the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz led by Indians of All Tribes.  NoiseCat honored those who stood, and asked those gathered to stand who were there at the occupation of Alcatraz.

NoiseCat joined Dr. LaNada War Jack, Bannock; Clayton Thomas-Muller, Mathias Colomb Cree/aka Pukatawagan and Ross K'dee, Pomo.

Dr. LaNada War Jack, Shoshone Bannock, said she was sent to San Francisco on BIA relocation when she was 18 years old. At that time in the Bay area, blacks had a program to send people to the University of California at Berkeley and she asked if she could be included. At the college, she helped create the Native American Student Group for Berkeley. This resulted in Native American groups at the universities throughout California. 

When a plan was announced to turn Alcatraz over to a billionaire for a casino, Native people decided to claim the island in accordance with Treaty rights.

Remembering the 19-month occupation, War Jack remembered the 19 Hopi who were incarcerated at Alcatraz. These were strong religious leaders and there were others incarerated here: Apache, Shoshone, Paiute and Bannock leaders were incarcerated at Alcatraz.

"All of our leaders were taken to Alcatraz as well," War Jack said.

Their leader chosen for the occupation at Alcatraz was Richard Oakes. Sadly, his daughter was killed and he was there for only six weeks.

At Alcatraz, they worked on the proposal for Thunderbird University. They also received $50,000 and created the Bay Area Native American Council, who negotiated with the federal government. She said at the time, the occupiers of Alcatraz were being accused of not having the support of the older generation, so this council was created for negotiations with the federal government.

"Here it is 50 years late and I am still alive," War Jack said.

War Jack pointed out that the tribal governments today are not the same as the Native governing bodies of long ago. The patriarchy now is a result of the oppression that Europeans brought, and it came with the trauma of boarding schools. It is the same system that kept the people from speaking their languages and carrying out their religions.

Speaking of the prayers at sunrise on Alcatraz, she encouraged prayers at sunrise, offering prayers to the sunrays, which send these blessings back to earth. Singing impacts the light.

Ross K'dee, Pomo, remembered Richard Oakes who married and a Pomo. K'dee said the Oakes family continues to do good work in the Pomo community. K'dee said his own grandfather was the director of the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland and helped negotiate between the Alcatraz occupiers and the government.

"Alcatraz resulted in the reclaiming of lands all over the country," K'dee said.

From Alcatraz, many people went to DQ, where the same Treaty was used to claim land for DQ University, near Davis, California. But there were other lands reclaimed at the same time, that remain reclaimed lands by Treaty today, K'dee said.

K'dee expressed his love and appreciation for the allies in the movement. "We need allies on the frontline, especially when they come with the pepper spray."

K'dee spoke of the old-growth forest, salmon and natural beings being lost to destruction.

Clayton Thomas Muller, Cree, began with respect to Coastal Miwok ancestors. Clayton said that while growing up in Winnipeg, he was part of the Manitoba Warriors and in gang culture. This changed when he was taken to the Sundance. Today, the goal, he said, is to help young people decolonize their minds and re-establish their sacredness.

"Today young people have stepped up and are leading the climate movement."

Clayton said Greta Thunberg stepped up, but Indigenous young people have been leading the climate movement all along. An amazing 900,000 marched in Canada on Climate Strike Day. It was the largest ever, he said.

As for the strong movement to halt the tar sands mining and transport, he said, "The story is not over." 

Speaking of the Native Youth Movement, he said, "We have been knocking down pipelines one after another."

"We need the impossible."

Urging non-violent civil disobedience, he said, "In the Cree way, we talk about the 7 generations."

"We need to trust our children and youth. Lift them up."

"It's a race against time to give our people hope," Clayton said. "It is important to remember the spiritual aspect of the work."

"Standing Rock was a global teaching moment," he said. It was the largest gathering ever of its kind. Standing Rock camps became the fifth largest city in North Dakota.

Clayton said Standing Rock shares with us a simple natural teaching, "Mni Wiconi. Water is Life."

"They gave the world a spiritual teaching necessary if we are going to solve the global climate crisis."

Clayton made it clear that climate change and the tar sands are symptoms of a problem: The economic paradigm of capitalism.

Clayton said we spend nine months of our life in the amniotic fluid of our mothers, inside our mother's womb. And we hear the heartbeat of our mother.

"That is your shared experience."

LaNada War Jack attended UC Berkeley starting in 1968 and became very active in social change movements, including with the Third World Liberation Front that fought to establish ethnic studies programs and in the 1969 Native American take-over of Alcatraz Island. She is the author of the upcoming: Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life.

She is the author of the upcoming: Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life. Note: LaNada's new book, Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life, will be out this November and will be available on her website:
Alcatraz captured the world’s attention and led to real policy changes to improve the lives of Native American peoples through increased self-determination. Since then, generations of activists have followed in those footsteps and vigorously fought racist, sexist, and classist U.S. government policies."

In this historic panel we’ll hear from Indigenous activists from three generations who were on the frontlines, respectively, at Alcatraz, Standing Rock, and other struggles, as they compare notes and discuss their visions of the next 50 years of Indigenous activism. Julian NoiseCat (Secwepmc); LaNada War Jack (Bannock); Clayton Thomas-Muller (Mathias Colomb Cree/aka Pukatawagan) and Ross K'dee (Pomo.)  -- Bioneers

Censored News series at Bioneers

Borderlands, language and songs as resistance, waiting for the wall to come down by Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Alcatraz to Standing Rock, reclaiming land, water and life by Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Valarie Kauer 'Birthing in Revolutionary Love' at Bioneers by Brenda Norrell
Climate Justice, a voice from Mississippi at Bioneers by Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Nina Simons on 'Living Juicy' and remembering her mother at Bioneers by Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Terry Tempest Williams: Castle Rock is alive. It has a heartbeat. By Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Clayton Thomas Muller 'Life in the City of Dirty Water' by Brenda Norrell
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Bioneers celebrates healing, regeneration and democracy by Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Article copyright Censored News.

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