Native american graffiti to be restored at Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island. 08/12/2008

Photo by user Superchilum.

Alcatraz Island. 08/12/2008

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Graffiti: Arguably the most popular form of vandalism in the Bay Area. Everywhere you go whether in San Francisco or Oakland, there is always a sight of graffiti, whether on buses, building or even places that make you think: “How in the heck did they do that?” like on signs above freeways. Graffiti is prominent is in one of our own landmarks: Alcatraz, the world famous prison that once housed infamous mobsters like George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Al Capone.

The Rock is most famous for being the last stand of the justice system, but there is one section of its history that is largely forgotten, the Indian Occupation from 1969 to 1971. During the occupation, the people there scribbled with spray paint messages like: “PEACE AND FREEDOM…HOME OF THE FREE INDIAN LAND,” and “INDIANS WELCOME.”

Unless you’re 5 years old or have been living under a rock, you should know the long history of Native Americans in the U.S. The longtime persecution of Native Americans leave a bleak spot in American history, right next to the slavery period and subsequent racism. The goal of the occupation was to build a sort of a Native American center.

The intention was to teach Native American Studies, be a place for a spiritual center and a museum as well. The occupation happened on the heels of the “Indian Termination Policy” which slowly started to eliminate Native American tribes and assimilate its people into mainstream society. The occupation received worldwide attention and support. The
occupation could be deemed as a success. While their intentional goal was not attained, they raised awareness of the plight of Native Americans and helped stop the termination of Indian tribes.

The graffiti has waned in recent years. While restoring graffiti is an odd pursuit, nonetheless is paying homage to those people who braved through the elements and adversity to show the World the perseverance of Native Americans.

They were being targeted by the government back then and showed that they will not lie down and give in. They raised Indian activism and raised awareness on their struggles. The jail cells symbolizes Alcatraz’s history as a prison and the graffiti reminds people of the Native American occupation part of the history. It’s still an important part of the island and further reminds people of the struggle of Native Americans ever since that first colony settled in the
then New World.