Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 20, 2019

Backfire: LaNada War Jack's new book on Native Resistance chronicles Alcatraz to Standing Rock

Backfire: LaNada War Jack's new book on Native Resistance chronicles Alcatraz to Standing Rock

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News

Native Resistance is now available at Eastwind Bookstores, University Avenue, Berkeley. Dr. LaNada WarJack will present her book at signings on Thursday in Berkeley and on Friday in San Francisco.

In the beginning, there were the students at the University of California Berkeley and the Third World Liberation Front Strike. The 50-day protest resulted in the creation of Interdisciplinary Ethnic Studies for Black, Chicano, Asian and Native Americans.
Then, there was the Occupation of Alcatraz.
Dr. LaNada War Jack's new book is a book of history and personal biography which details the Occupation of Alcatraz, the takeover of the BIA in Washington, the fishing rights struggle in the Northwest, Wounded Knee in '73, Pyramid Lake water rights battle, and Standing Rock.
The book, Native Resistance, An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life, is a book of no compromise on the issues of American Indian land, fishing and water rights.

The book chronicles how the United States systems of oppression backfired, as Native Americans rose up in resistance.
The book, just released, is also a history book of America, which details the greed of whites in Europe that resulted in a cruel, violent and warring people that colonized this land in a reign of genocide and terror.
In her new book Native Resistance, War Jack, Shoshone Bannock,  details her childhood, both her good grades and getting kicked out of every high school she attended.
Fortunately, she had a mother and father who believed in her and understood what true education is.

Ultimately, War Jack went to the San Francisco Bay area on the relocation program. It was this failed U.S. program of relocation that epitomized the failed policies of the United States government.
The Indian relocation program's premise was to send young Indians away from their homelands on to the cities and keep them away in futile low paying labor. The U.S. wanted Natives assimilated, so it could seize their lands back home.
War Jack, however, wanted more than vocational training. She wanted to go to college. Her opportunity came when Rev. Jesse Jackson and others helped her gain admittance to UC Berkeley. She was the first Native American there and organized Native American students. She helped organize the Third World Liberation Strike, resulting in an Interdisciplinary Ethnics Studies Program throughout the University of California system.
As President of the newly formed Native American Studies, War Jack and the students at UC Berkeley objected to the plan to turn Alcatraz into a casino. With War Jack in the lead, students organized the Occupation of Alcatraz, with asked students from San Francisco State University to join them. The occupation's focus was to bring attention to Native American Rights and Treaty rights. 

Already, there had been an attempt to hold the rock.
"In 1964, a group of Lakota from the San Francisco American Indian Center, consisting of Richard McKenzie, Hank Means, Russell Means, and others, reclaimed the island under the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as federal surplus property after the prison had been abandoned," War Jack writes.

Still, there would be one more attempt to occupy Alcatraz before the ultimate 19-month long occupation took place. War Jack and others were dropped off by fishermen one night and hid in the prison, as authorities searched for them.

Then, on Nov. 20, 1969, arriving with their sleeping bags the students began the occupation. War Jack describes the reality of the occupation, including living without water and electricity, and the severe burns on her hands when she put out a fire with her hands to protect her toddler son. It was believed to be caused by arson.
War Jack said she was never with AIM, the American Indian Movement, and that AIM was an urban movement. On  Alcatraz, the occupiers chose the name, "Indians of All Tribes."
There is no way to summarize War Jack's details of the Occupation of Alcatraz. It is best to read War Jack's own words in her new book, as much of it has not been previously written.

During her lifetime, War Jack battled not only the patriarchy in the tribal governments manufactured by the United States government,  but also the patriarchy and chauvinism within the movements for Native American rights.

War Jack writes of patriarchy, balance and Mother Earth.
"... today in our homelands of America, there are those individual tribal societies who unknowingly adopted the patriarchy over a hundred years ago (and more recently) in accordance to federal law and congressional legislation of so-called “tribal governments” through federally recognized tribes under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act."

"The 'matriarchy' is not the opposite of the patriarchy but is the combination and balance of both male- and female-shared responsibilities and not one gender controlling the other. The matriarchy is a circular system of traditional government, as a living biological ecosystem, symbolized as the womb and how the seasons of a year form the annual cycle of earth and rebirth. This is why we call our earth 'Mother' and not 'Father.' We balance the spiritual and physical realities," she writes.

Within the movements, she also struggled to keep the occupations peaceful, and without weapons. She points out that the Black Panthers were armed, and they were killed. She shares the message of Hopi Spiritual Leader Thomas Banyacya, who came to Alcatraz and brought the message of peace. 

War Jack writes, "Thomas Banyacya explained that the people have a choice to choose the sacred path or the other road that leads to destruction. The red road is holy and is the sacred path that continues with life. Just before the path of destruction, the people have a chance to come back to the sacred path as indicated on the line connecting the two paths."
War Jack also remembers the Hopi who were imprisoned on Alcatraz for refusing to abide by the United States government's laws. 

The Unexpected

There was always the unexpected during the journeys in the resistance, as when Creedence Clearwater Revival bought a boat for the occupiers at Alcatraz, and when Jane Fonda took War Jack for television interviews. Johnny Carson also came out and interviewed War Jack. Marlon Brando and Dick Gregory were there in the fishing rights struggle in Washington state. 

McCarthyism and racism in the U.S.

During the years that followed the Occupation of Alcatraz, War Jack served on the board which created the Native American Rights Fund. In her lifelong battle for land rights, she also fought for the rights of her people, the Shoshone Bannock, alongside her father.

Her father, Ed, was charged as a communist during the McCarthy era, which shut him out from employment.
War Jack writes, "My dad’s grandmother Seoda Johnson raised him, and he knew all of the stories, protocols, and teachings. He was later forced to go to boarding school, but he already had his cultural foundation and languages. He was a generational leader who became the tribal chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. His resistance against the unjust treatment and policies of the US government found him charged him as a 'communist' during the McCarthyism era in the 1950s and early ’60s. As a family member, I grew up with this fight, and the injustice of it all became a part of me."

As for the BIA takeover in Washington D.C., War Jack tells how she was a law student in D.C. at the time. Although she was not involved with the takeover, she was blamed for it, as many of those who came to D.C. stayed at her place.

The Government Rape Culture

The best advice to writers is to write what you know. War Jack has done this in her book.
War Jack chronicles her life, and that of the ancestors, as she tells of the Occupation of Alcatraz, and resistance at Standing Rock.
"My personal story is about being in the BIA Relocation Program, going living in the government rape culture," she writes.
"Every attempt has been made to destroy the history of the Indigenous people throughout the land. Therefore, our historical narrative continues to be muted and replaced with the colonizers’ version in order to hide the truth, dehumanize us, and justify genocide."

War Jack says she has gone from rage and defiance to a deep sadness because of the lack of 'truth of our history.'"
"Racism and discrimination were very prominent in reservation towns, where signs displayed 'No Indians or Dogs Allowed,' and non-Indians still had an intense hunger and greed for taking more reservation lands and resources."

The New Era of Alcatraz Continues

The Occupation of Alcatraz brought an end to termination policies and began an era of reclaiming lands.

When War Jack and students united to take over Alcatraz, this ended the Indian Termination Policies and began the self-determination era. This facilitated certain subsequent government-funded policies for Indian Tribes' nationwide while recovering millions of acres of land back, writes the publisher.

Dr. Dean Chavers, author of Racism in Indian Country and twenty other books, describes the powerful changes that were the result of the Occupation of Alcatraz. In the forefront in history, is the return of lands to the Pueblo of Taos, Yakama Nation and Pit River Nation.

Chavez writes, “LaNada was the first Indian student at UC Berkeley in 1968 and has been our leader for fifty years while maintaining the purity of her beliefs all the way through. She is also one of the first Native people to earn a doctoral degree."

"LaNada was the leader of the Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, which led to the most earth-shaking changes in Indian Country during my lifetime. The return of the Blue Lake to the Pueblo of Taos, the return of Mount Adams to the Yakama Tribe, the return of sacred lands to the Pit River Tribe, and many more such actions were the direct result of her leadership."

"The Alcatraz occupation led to the most significant changes in Indian Country: the end of PL280 by President Richard M. Nixon, as well as the most important Indian policy statement for Native people.”

The story, however, does not begin or end at Alcatraz.

War Jack writes, "Other protests have developed for 'Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.' Indigenous people are the first to understand the respect for our 'Mother Earth.' This respect is transferred to all women, who are regarded as sacred and life-givers."

"The phenomena and statistics of Indigenous women missing and murdered have been growing throughout our continent, and we continue to be in crisis. Protection of sacred sites, such as what is currently happening with protests against the building of a telescope on the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea, will impact the spiritual life that maintains the balance of land, life, and water deep into the underground of rock, which also prevents volcanic eruptions."

"The laws that prevent fracking, mining, and other destructive practices of Bears Ears National Monument and other National Parks have been taken out of protective status, leaving vulnerable sacred sites open to abuse."

"When the spiritual and sacred sites have been abandoned and destroyed, it will cause a major imbalance to the land, which in turn causes earthquakes and other disturbances."

"The southern border protests to build the 'Wall' are being vigorously protested and opposed by the southern tribes and many others who understand that this will cause major plant and animal ecosystem destruction, as well as prevent the free use of the land by the Indigenous people."

In her book, War Jack relays the power of the Massacre of Wounded Knee, the Ghost Dance shared by Wovoka, the prophecy of Crazy Horse and the words of Wallace Black Elk.

Prophecy of Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840–1877): “Upon suffering beyond suffering; the Red Nation shall rise again, and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations, a world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.”

Wallace Black Elk told of this oneness and being centered in the Spirit.

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. . . . There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men. . . . While I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being and I saw that it was holy.”

Black Elk also spoke of the Circle.

“Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. . . . You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle. The Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.”

War Jack reiterates their words as a survivor.

"We still survive throughout post-colonization, imperialist rule, termination policies, and economic exploitation that continue to steal our lands to feed the greed of capitalist society. It is one thing to steal the lands, but it is another thing altogether to witness the raping and pillaging of our sacred Mother Earth through the mining, fracking, and poisoning of our sacred waters and medicine."

Below: Interview with Dr. LaNada War Jack at the AIM West Unthanksgiving Dinner in San Francisco, during the 50th Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz. Interview by Brenda Norrell, Censored News.

Book signings this week: Dr. War Jack presents Native Resistance

Thu, November 21, 2019

5:00 PM – 7:30 PM PST
UC Berkeley's Multicultural Center
220 MLK Jr. Student Union, Berkeley, CA 94720

San Francisco Public Library
Fri, Nov 22, 3 – 4 PM PST

100 Larkin St, San Francisco
On the cover, LaNada's grandfather Queep, at a time when the ceremonies were forbidden in the 1920s.

LaNada on the cover of Ramparts.

From Donning Company, publisher:

Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight For Survival And Life by Dr. LaNada War Jack is a first person intergenerational history of the Native American Movement that is a must-read for all concerned about indigenous peoples' rights. Tracing boarding schools and uh relocation programs, to the occupation of Alcatraz Island, and the Standing Rock protest, Native Resistance is a hard-hitting history of the Native American struggles for freedom and justice.

Title: Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight For Survival And Life

Author: LaNada War Jack
ISBN: 9781578648757
Publisher: Donning Company Publishers,
Retail price $40.00
Release Date: November 11, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Press Articles
-The New York Times featured Dr. War Jack in a photo essay

-The New Republic interviewed Dr. War Jack

-Dr. War Jack’s essay on the occupation of Alcatraz featured in Open Space

About the Author

Dr. LaNada War Jack is a member of the Shoshone Bannock Tribes where she lives on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho. In January of 1968 she was the first Native American student enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with honors in an Independent Major of Native American Law and  Politics. While attending UC Berkeley, Dr. War Jack participated as the first Native American component of the first Ethnic Studies Program in the UC statewide effort in establishing Native American Studies, African American Studies, Chicano Studies and Asian Studies. Dr. War Jack is the author of Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life.

Praise for Native Resistance:

“This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the takeover of Alcatraz Island or the Red Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Before Alcatraz, LaNada helped lead the Third World Liberation Front and creation of Native American Studies at UC Berkeley. While at Berkeley, LaNada played a central leadership role in one of the most important demonstrations in all of American Indian history. LaNada, alongside Richard Oakes and hundreds of other Indigenous peoples, ignited a movement that forever altered the course of Indigenous rights. Native Resistance includes a definitive first-hand account of the Alcatraz occupation.”

—Kent Blansett, Author of A Journey to Freedom: Richard Oakes, Alcatraz, and the Red Power Movement

Dr. LaNada War Jack is available for press interviews and comment. Electronic copies of Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life are available for book reviews only upon request. PDF is not for public distribution.
For inquiries please contact author email

Distributed by Eastwind Books of Berkeley
2066 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704
phone: 510 548-2350 fax: 510 548-3697 email:

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Brenda Norrell publisher Censored News
Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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