Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 2, 2019

Video interview LaNada War Jack: Occupation of Alcatraz 50 years later

Dr. LaNada War Jack remembers the Occupation of Alcatraz 50 years ago and discusses
her new book, 'Native Resistance,' at the AIM West UnThanksgiving Feast in San Francisco.
Video interview by Brenda Norrell, Censored News.

The Occupation of Alcatraz

LaNada War Jack 'From Self-Determination Back to Termination''

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Nov. 27, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The victories that came with the Occupation of Alcatraz 50 years ago are now threatened by the Trump administration, said Dr. LaNada War Jack, Shoshone Bannock, at the American Indian Movement's UnThanksgiving dinner here.
"I'm really happy that we finally made it to our 50th year. There's been a lot of progress, we've gone forward, and unfortunately, we've gone many steps back as well because of the present administration. And of course after Standing Rock, he signed that executive order to allow the Dakota Access pipeline to continue, and now we have polluted waters in Montana," War Jack said in an interview with Censored News.
"We have gone forward into self-determination and now back into the termination era under the present administration."

War Jack said she is hopeful with the young people moving on, standing up and speaking up.
War Jack shared the events that led up to the Occupation of Alcatraz 50 years ago, when she and fellow students took the island.
The occupation resulted in sweeping changes in federal law and new funding for Native Americans, at a time when state and federal governments were seizing lands and attempting to annihilate Native Americans in the 1960s.
War Jack said, "I'm here to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Alcatraz, and also the Third World Strike at Berkeley. It is our 50th anniversary there as well."
"What that means is that it was the first interdisciplinary department of ethnic studies, of African American, Asian, Chicano, and Native American Studies."
War Jack said it all started at the University of California at Berkeley and went statewide. The university ethnic studies department was replicated across the country.
"So, happy -- first step Berkeley," she said in the interview.
War Jack said it took eight years to write her just-released book, 'Native Resistance: An Intergenerational Fight for Survival and Life."
"I'm glad I got started early, and then life just kept interfering in my writing."
"I was able to get it down little by little until finally, I had the whole thing. So, I'm so glad that I just went ahead and published," War Jack told Censored News.
War Jack is now editing the second edition.
"I'm getting an amazing response. Of course, I'm still having to finish paying the publisher for my books, but I'm just about there. I'm about halfway there now, I'm hoping to be paying them off soon."
Speaking to hundreds gathered for AIM West's UnThanksgiving Feast on Wednesday, War Jack said she came to the San Francisco Bay area when she was 18 years old. She was the first Native American student at UC Berkeley in 1968 and among the organizers of the Third World Strike, which was going on at San Francisco State as well.
"My counterpart was Richard Oakes at San Francisco State."
"Together, we took the island."
War Jack described the first overnight occupation. When they returned the next day from the island, students were upset because they were getting ready to join them on the island.
"I said, 'let's get together and take the island again."
And so they did.
She said now, 50 years later, Native people will celebrate for the next 19 months, the length of time of the occupation.
"We had no idea what it would ignite."
War Jack described the United States system of termination for Native people: Children were put in boarding schools to "assimilate us and eliminate us."
"They thought we would just be able to melt in."
Instead, in November of 1969, there was the Occupation of Alcatraz.
War Jack described how there were many leaders on the island during the occupation, heading up the responsibilities in the kitchen, dining room, and those with public relations, media, and attorneys.
"We had leaders for all that."
The Occupation of Alcatraz came in the 1960s at a time when the signs, "No Indians or dogs allowed," were coming down. But for Native people, especially in the border towns, the feeling was still there.
"They pushed us out into the relocation programs."
"For those of us who came to the Bay Area -- it was very magic."
In the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960s, there were demonstrations, students were fighting for Vietnam and free press.
"Everything was going on at that time."
They created the ethnic studies departments at the University of California in Berkeley which spread throughout the United States.
She said the ethnic studies were balanced with Native culture.
War Jack said Native matrilineal cultures are a balance of male and female. However, today we live in a time of patriarchy, which is oppression.
"We are on the bottom."
"We came from the termination era into the determination area."
In the '60s, the land was taken away from Native people across the United States. The states were taking over jurisdiction.
With the Occupation of Alcatraz, everything changed.
War Jack said President Nixon halted Public Law 280 by signing an executive order which "vacated termination while we were on the island." She said Nixon initiated positive policies, increased the BIA budget and supported the struggle with good policies.
"We're right back in the termination area because of the present administration," she said, referring to the Trump administration.
"We need to unite and share information and help one another and continue in the struggle to stop the corruption."
War Jack said the earth is in crisis and ready for collapse.
While Native people stand up in defense of the air, land and water, she said the fight is everyone's fight.
"It is not our fight, but it is everyone's fight."
In her new book, 'Native Resistance,' War Jack said she chronicles the genocide from the boarding schools to the early tribal government and Indian Land Claims Act.
"It was the taking of our lands and resources."
"It's been a long process."
War Jack said part of fighting back is to tell that story.
"I wanted to document it."
Today on Nov. 28, 2019, Native Americans gather on Alcatraz at sunrise to celebrate the 50-year struggle which ignited an era of resistance, determination and personal transformation for Native people.

Copyright Brenda Norrell

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