The American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island


The American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island

Red Power and Self-Determination

Troy R. Johnson
Foreword by Donald L. Fixico
With a new afterword by the author

312 pages
15 photographs


December 2008


$20.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The occupation of Alcatraz Island by American Indians from November 20, 1969, through June 11, 1971, focused the attention of the world on Native Americans and helped develop pan-Indian activism. In this detailed examination of the takeover, Troy R. Johnson tells the story of those who organized the occupation and those who participated, some by living on the island and others by soliciting donations of money, food, water, clothing, and other necessities.

Johnson documents the unrest in the Bay Area urban Indian population that helped spur the takeover and draws on interviews with those involved to describe everyday life on Alcatraz during the nineteen-month occupation. In describing the federal government’s reactions as Americans rallied in support of the Indians, he turns to federal government archives and Nixon administration files. The book is a must-read for historians and others interested in the civil rights era, Native American history, and contemporary American Indian issues.

Author Bio

Troy R. Johnson is a professor of history and American Indian studies at California State University, Long Beach. He is the author and editor of several books, including Red Power: The American Indians’ Fight for Freedom (available in a Bison Books edition) and Contemporary Native American Political Issues.


“The book provides illuminating, behind-the-scenes looks at Alcatraz’s occupiers, the dreams that united them and realities that splintered them; the reaction of the Bay Area Native American community; and the White House efforts to solve a public relations dilemma. Included is an extensive summary of other Native American actions that grew out of the Alcatraz experience.”—Publishers Weekly

“This important study of late-20th-century Indian issues is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, and general readers.”—Choice

“Johnson presents a fine narrative that is both fresh and authoritative.”—American Indian Quarterly

“Johnson provides an interesting and comprehensive account of the social and political context for the occupation, of the motivations and political aspirations of the occupiers, of daily life on Alcatraz during the occupation, of the U.S. government’s strategy to end the occupation, and the reasons for the eventual end of the occupation.”—Professional Geographer

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Donald L. Fixico
1. The Relocation Program, Urban Indians, and Alcatraz
2. Urban Indian Unrest and the 1964 Occupation of Alcatraz
3. Social Movements of the 1960s and Indian Leadership
4. "We Hold the Rock!": The Indian Occupation
5. The Occupation: Logistics and Support
6. Voices from Alcatraz
7. Trouble on Alcatraz
8. Government Responses
9. Removal from Alcatraz
Conclusion: Alcatraz: Catalyst for Change
Appendix: Summary of Major Occupations

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