We Hold the Rock

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    Richard Oakes

    To commemorate Richard Oakes 75th Birthday (although he was long gone), here’s a documentary video of what he was infamous for.

    About Oakes

    Oakes was a Mohawk Native American activist who promoted the fundamental (conservative) idea that Native people have a right to sovereignty, justice, respect and control over their own destinies.

    He and some Native Americans occupied Alcatraz island as an act of a peaceful protest. They stayed there for 19 months. However, In 1970 the island began to fall into disarray after Oakes’ 13-year old stepdaughter fell to her death from concrete steps. After that, Oakes left the island, along with numerous students who went back to school.

    Conflicts over leadership and the influx of non-Indians diminished the important stance of the original occupants. In June 1971 the United States government removed the remaining 15 occupants from the island.

    While Oakes and his followers did not succeed in obtaining the island, they did affect U.S. policy and the treatment of Indians. As a result of the occupation, the official U.S. government policy of termination of Indian tribes was ended and replaced by a policy of Indian self-determination.

    Right after Alcatraz, Oakes continued his resistance by helping the Pit River Tribe in their attempts to regain nearly 3 million acres of land that had been seized by Pacific Gas & Electric. Oakes also planned to create a “mobile university” dedicated to creating opportunity for Native Americans. As a result of his activism, he endured tear gas, billy clubs, and brief stints in jail. During his time in San Francisco, he was beaten unconscious by two men in a bar with pool cues. He is reported to have remained in a coma for over a month (30 days), but made a recovery which friends credited to the appearance of his mentor, Wallace Mad Bear Anderson of the Iroquois Confederacy.

    Soon after, Oakes was shot and killed by Michael Morgan, a YMCA camp manager. Morgan had a reputation for being rough with Native children. Oakes reportedly confronted him, and Morgan responded by drawing a handgun and fatally shooting him. Morgan was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Six months later, charges against Morgan were dropped on the grounds that Oakes had moved aggressively toward him. Oakes died on September 20, 1972 in Sonoma, California at the age of 30.

    Courtesy: Wikipedia

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