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On Nov. 20, 1969, a bunch of Indigenous Individuals that known as itself Indians of All Tribes, a number of of whom had been UC Berkeley college students, took boats within the early morning hours to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. They bypassed a Coast Guard blockade and took management of the island. The 19-month occupation that adopted could be thought to be one of many best acts of political resistance in American Indian historical past.

Everardo Reyes is a Ph.D. pupil in ethnomusicology at Berkeley. His analysis appears to be like at how radio and music had been used through the takeover to seize mass consideration and amplify the Purple Energy motion, resulting in huge modifications in federal Indian coverage.


Members of the activist group Indians of All Tribes stand on Alcatraz Island on Nov. 25, 1969, 5 days after the 19-month occupation started. (AP Photograph)

Learn a transcript of Berkeley Voices episode 102: Exploring the sound of the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz.

[Music: “Cornicob” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Narration: On Nov. 20, 1969, a bunch of Indigenous Individuals that known as itself Indians of All Tribes took boats within the early morning hours to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

The federal jail on Alcatraz had been closed for six years, and the 89 protesters aimed to occupy the island, stating that the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie required that unused federal land be given again to Native Individuals.

This was occurring at a time when Native American livelihoods and cultures had been acutely threatened by ongoing termination insurance policies by which the U.S. authorities terminated the standing of greater than 100 tribes, withdrawing help and companies and seizing thousands and thousands of acres of Place of origin.

Most of the protesters had been Bay Space school college students, together with two of the group’s leaders: Richard Oakes, an Akwesasne Mohawk, from San Francisco State College, and LaNada Warfare Jack, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, who was attending UC Berkeley.

Because the activists neared Alcatraz, they bypassed a Coast Guard blockade, which had been arrange after earlier takeover makes an attempt.

The group made it to Alcatraz Island and took it over. The occupation would change into one of many best acts of political resistance in American Indian historical past.

I’m Anne Brice, and that is Berkeley Voices.

[Music fades]

As soon as they had been on the island, the occupiers issued a proclamation to President Richard Nixon and the United Nations that stated they’d buy the 16 acres of land for $24 in glass beads and purple fabric, an equal value to what the U.S. authorities paid for Manhattan 300 years earlier than.

Everardo Reyes is a fourth-year Ph.D. pupil in ethnomusicology in Berkeley’s Division of Music.

Everardo Reyes: What finally ends up occurring after they first take it over is there’s simply a lot help from individuals inside the Bay Space. They begin getting mills. They get meals shipped in, and there’s powwow drumming. That is the stuff in my analysis that I’m attempting to uncover now. That they had conferences and budgets. That they had large plans for the island to actually simply change into this superb cultural middle.

Narration: Because the takeover gained extra consideration and help, President Nixon ordered the Coast Guard to play a task of relative non-interference so long as the occupation remained peaceable. At some factors, there have been greater than 400 Native individuals and their supporters on the island.

Reyes’ analysis appears to be like at how sound and music had been used through the takeover to seize mass consideration and amplify the Purple Energy motion, a civil rights motion shaped by Native American youth within the second half of the twentieth century. And Reyes explores how the occupation of Alcatraz — together with different acts of political resistance — led to huge modifications in federal Indian coverage.

Everardo Reyes: Richard Oakes talks about, in interviews, that the power to play Indigenous Native American music on the island was simply so elementary in that first month that they had been there.

And he talks about how they had been taking part in music all evening lengthy across the drum — that it was bringing collectively Native American individuals from throughout the US, but additionally Indigenous individuals from Mexico and Canada and South America. So, music is simply so elementary in bringing collectively communities on this intertribal connection.

Narration: Reyes is a musician — he performs a number of devices, principally self-taught — and he’s a part of the Designated Emphasis in Indigenous Language Revitalization program at Berkeley. So, this connection amongst totally different Indigenous communities that occurred on Alcatraz feels particularly significant to him.

My grandfather was Raramuri, which is an Indigenous neighborhood in Chihuahua within the Sierra Madre mountains. I imply, Alcatraz, it reverberates and it influences me after I learn pamphlets of them speaking concerning the significance of language and the significance of getting an area for college kids to return and really feel snug with their Indigenous methods of understanding. Despite the fact that that occurs in 1970, it resonates with me now, and so I really feel like I’ve that connection.

[Music: “Secret Pocketbook” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Narration: The activists on Alcatraz had been reaching and connecting with different Indigenous communities by doing interviews with native and nationwide media, but additionally by broadcasting common experiences of the occupation over the radio.

Utilizing borrowed and donated radio gear, the activists arrange a broadcasting station in the principle cell block. The primary stay broadcast of a present they known as “Radio Free Alcatraz” was on Dec. 22, 1969, on KPFA, a station within the metropolis of Berkeley on the Pacifica Community. John Trudell, a Santee Sioux from Nebraska, was host of this system.

[Music fades]

Everardo Reyes: So, we see the ways in which media was used, like radio, to actually speak concerning the points occurring on Alcatraz and it allowed for the Indians of All Tribes to have the ability to management the narrative and counter false info that was given by the US authorities.

[Music: “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone” by Buffy Sainte-Marie]

Narration: Every episode of “Radio Free Alcatraz” started with Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie singing, “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone.”

Lyrics: 

Are you able to bear in mind the occasions
That you’ve held your head excessive?
And instructed all your pals of your Indian declare
Proud good girl and proud good man
Your great-great-grandfather from Indian blood sprang
And you’re feeling in your coronary heart for these ones
Oh it’s written in books and in songs
That we’ve been mistreated and wronged
Nicely again and again I hear those self same phrases (music fades)

John Trudell: Good night, and welcome to Indian Land radio from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. That is John Trudell on behalf of the Indians of All Tribes welcoming you. This night we’ll be listening to… (fades out)

Narration: Within the broadcasts, Trudell typically spoke to activists on the island about why they had been concerned within the occupation and about their activism for American Indian rights.

Right here he’s in January 1970 speaking to Warfare Jack, who, two years earlier, was the primary Native American pupil to be admitted to Berkeley. And in early 1969, she was a frontrunner of the Third World Liberation Entrance strikes on campus, which resulted within the first ethnic research programs to be included within the college’s curricula.

Jan. 19, 1970 episode of “Radio Free Alcatraz” from Pacifica Radio Archives:

John Trudell: LaNada is a pupil on the College of California at Berkeley, and I perceive LaNada had some hassle there final spring due to the Native research programs. Would you care to inform us about that, LaNada? I heard you had been arrested there.

LaNada Warfare Jack: Sure, I used to be concerned within the Third World Strike at Berkeley for Native American research. I used to be arrested for felonious assault on an officer, which I perceive is the standard cost that they cost a few of the strike individuals with. (Younger youngster makes sounds) My son is simply leaving… (she laughs)

Narration: Within the broadcasts, Trudell mentioned methods the federal authorities was violating Native American rights — by proscribing searching entry, setting unfair costs on tribal lands, eradicating Native American youngsters from native colleges and offering inhumane circumstances on reservations — to call only a few.

Right here’s an episode by which Trudell interviews Bernel Blindman, a Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and a pupil in social welfare at Berkeley.

Dec. 31, 1969 episode of “Radio Free Alcatraz” from Pacifica Radio Archives:

John Trudell: I’ve by no means been to Pine Ridge. Now, I’ve been to the Rosebud Reservation, my reservation, Sioux reservation, is in Nebraska, and I understand how circumstances are there. However, how are the work alternatives at Pine Ridge for Indian individuals?

Bernel Blindman: There isn’t any work on a reservation.

John Trudell: OK, right here’s one factor I’d wish to clear up —I do know this used to occur to me: Individuals discover out I’m Indian and would inform me how fortunate I used to be as a result of I had the federal government to maintain me. Someplace alongside the road, they consider I used to get these incredible checks of nice quantities of cash to simply do with as I happy. This isn’t true, is it?

Bernel Blindman: No. Not on the reservation.

John Trudell: I do know at house on our reservation, the older individuals stay on social safety and authorities commodities.

Bernel Blindman: That’s about all they stay on on the reservation. Most individuals. Besides the individuals who work for the welfare.

John Trudell: Now, at Pine Ridge, didn’t the federal government arrange new housing there a number of years again, three or 4 years in the past?

Bernel Blindman: Sure, however most of them are arrange for the individuals who work for the federal government as a result of they’ll afford to pay for it.

[Music: “Anamnesis” by John-Carlos Perea and Everardo Reyes]

Narration: Reyes was first impressed to analysis the impression of sound and music of the Alcatraz motion after taking a number of Berkeley lessons — together with one known as Indigenous Musics in Sudden Locations — taught by John-Carlos Perea, who final 12 months was a visiting affiliate professor in Berkeley’s Division of Music. Perea was born in Dulce, New Mexico, and grew up within the Bay Space.

John-Carlos Perea: The position of Indians of All Tribes in bringing in an intertribal American Indian voice to that point interval within the Bay Space — that was central to me rising up, proper? When it comes to, I might hear individuals speak about Alcatraz. I might hear individuals seek advice from the significance of Alcatraz.

Narration: Perea is chair and affiliate professor of American Indian research within the School of Ethnic Research at San Francisco State College, the place he was an undergraduate pupil within the Nineties. He remembers watching footage of the activist-students talking from Alcatraz.

John-Carlos Perea: And being so extremely good in exhibiting what you are able to do, not simply with lecturers, however with tradition, with humor, with artwork, proper? They confirmed a sort of change and continued to point out, for me, a sort of change that I very a lot determine with.

Narration: Perea earned his grasp’s and doctorate in music from UC Berkeley in 2005 and 2009, respectively. He’s a part of the third era of Native-identifying college students within the nation to earn a music analysis Ph.D., alongside along with his spouse, Jessica Bissett Perea, a professor of Native American research at UC Davis.

John-Carlos Perea: That’s simply the Ph.D., proper? If we went again additional, and we checked out people who each got here earlier than us, who had been working with a few of the people which are thought of founders of the sphere, however who don’t get the credit score in the identical manner. For instance, fascinated by people like Francis La Flesche, as only one individual, then we now have many extra generations who’ve come earlier than us, by way of who’ve participated.

However simply by way of institutional historical past, being in a division and pursuing these levels, we perceive, so far as the analysis we’ve finished to this point, that we’re solely the third era of Native-identified individuals with music analysis Ph.D.s.

Narration: Perea says music was central in creating intertribal connections on Alcatraz and in sharing the experiences of American Indians within the U.S.

John-Carlos Perea: Buffy Sainte-Marie singing “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone” and people songs in that point interval for her, they had been historic paperwork. She was writing about what was happening. After which she was getting on stage and singing it. She was taking part in a tune, however she was additionally doing the information, proper? I imply, she was actually, you recognize, telling individuals what was happening.

Narration: Right here’s Buffy Sainte-Marie performing “Hey, Little Chook.”

Hey, little chicken
I bear in mind you
You and your goals up increased than you possibly can fly
I bear in mind you
Hey, little chicken
Perched in the southern solar
These had been the times when your feathers had been new
And I bear in mind you

Little chicken now you recognize the place you’re at
Now the clouds are your habitat
However greater than that we meet once more and also you’re nonetheless my buddy
So, little chicken, the occasions have modified significantly
I’m a thrush now and you’re a peacock certainly (fades)

Narration: For Grammy Award-winner Perea, who this 12 months is constant his collaborative work on the Berkeley campus with the Middle for New Music and Audio Applied sciences, says creating and performing music in the present day isn’t about leaving the previous behind, however including to it — remembering the tales of those that got here earlier than him and constructing on these tales. Then, sharing the tales with others.

[Music: John-Carlos Perea and Everardo Reyes perform together for the UC Berkeley music department’s 69th Annual Noon Concert Series]

Final spring, Perea and Reyes carried out collectively in Hertz Corridor at Berkeley — Perea on the cedar flute and Reyes on the guitar — as a part of the music division’s 69th Annual Midday Live performance Sequence.

Final spring, Perea and Reyes carried out collectively as a part of the music division’s 69th Annual Midday Live performance Sequence. “I’ve

John-Carlos Perea: I’ve an auntie who as soon as stated to me, “While you stand up there, you’re up there with all of the individuals prior to now, even the individuals you don’t know who made it potential so that you can be right here and who, in some instances, died so that you can be right here.”

We have now duties to proceed remembering, proceed telling these tales, to proceed studying new tales and to proceed ensuring these change into a component, however once more, as an accumulative course of, proper? We’ve bought to attempt to bear in mind as a lot as we are able to. It’s at all times going to be incomplete, which is why we want one another, as a result of in that sense, these totally different energies coming collectively permit for that better understanding.

Narration: It’s what Reyes goals to do along with his analysis — to recollect the tales of the activists on Alcatraz, and to discover how music, radio and different sounds from the occupation influenced and proceed to affect Indigenous activism and legal guidelines regarding Indian tribal coverage in the present day.

[Music fades]

The occupation of Alcatraz ended after 19 months on June 11, 1971. Management struggles and interlopers not devoted to the trigger had been a few of the issues that led to the protest’s decline. On the finish, the federal authorities eliminated the final 15 or so protesters nonetheless on the island.

[Music: “Betty Dear” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Though the occupiers weren’t granted possession of the island, the protest — which individuals may observe by listening to “Radio Free Alcatraz” — was a catalyst for many years of Indigenous activism and was a turning level towards Native American self-determination.

In 1975, President Nixon ended the termination legal guidelines and applied the Indian Self-Dedication and Schooling Help Act, giving again tribes’ rights to control themselves. He additionally funded nationwide insurance policies for Indian tribes, which recovered thousands and thousands of their acres of land.

Most of the activists concerned within the occupation of Alcatraz went on to take part in different demonstrations and actions, significantly inside the American Indian Motion.

In 2016, Indigenous protesters stopped the development — at the least, for now — of the Dakota Entry Pipeline by means of unceded Native lands on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. LaNada Warfare Jack has stated the protest was consultant of the spirit of resistance on Alcatraz many years earlier than.

The battle for Indigenous rights, says Reyes, is way from over. And the occupation of Alcatraz — in his view — hasn’t essentially ended.

Everardo Reyes: So, there’s nonetheless a variety of activism occurring round it. And, you recognize, there’s a superb line between activism and analysis generally, proper? Or, generally there isn’t. And so, it’s laborious to know or laborious to say: May Alcatraz occur once more? I’m not fully satisfied that Alcatraz is over, proper? I nonetheless assume it’s an ongoing occupation.

Narration: Yearly since 1975, Indigenous individuals and allies have gone again to Alcatraz Island to take part in a dawn ceremony to honor the reminiscence of the 1969 stand.

Music: “Hey, Little Chook” by Buffy Sainte-Marie:

Hey, little chicken
I bear in mind you
You and your goals up increased than you possibly can fly
I bear in mind you
Hey, little chicken
Perched in the southern solar
These had been the times when your feathers had been new
And I bear in mind you
Little chicken now you recognize the place you’re at
Now the clouds are your habitat
However greater than that we meet once more and also you’re nonetheless my buddy
So, little chicken, the occasions have modified significantly
I’m a thrush now and you’re a peacock certainly
So flash your colours and I’ll sing
Glide into time with the moon in your wing
Little chicken, little chicken, little chicken

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