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Planning to Develop a Reservation on Alcatraz

In 1970, a group of Native American university students and members from many other tribes
moved onto a rocky island off of California. This isolated and desolate island has a dark history. It
is where the now unused prison Alcatraz stands.
In an act of protest against inequality, these men and women claimed this uninhabitable rock as
'Native American land'. The Native Americans described this island as geographically similar to
the reservations onto which their ancestors had been forced. Their choice of Alcatraz was
symbolic; it implied that the reservations are both prison-like and geographically worthless
(impossible to cultivate and improve upon). This speech shows that inequalities still face Native
Americans to this day.


Migration: a large movement of people from one area to another

Reservations: an area of land the US government kept separate for Native Americans
Alcatraz : a prison off the coast of northern California
Uninhabitable: a place that is difficult to live in
Occupation: entering a place and taking control of it
Colonial: a system in which a foreign government controls you

Planning to Develop a Reservation on Alcatraz

Indians of All Tribes
We are here on Alcatraz, and we represent many tribes of Indians. We are a proud
people. We are Indians! We have observed and rejected much of what so-called
"civilization" offers. We didnt want to melt with the melting pot, which was the object of
federal relocation programs. We wanted to remain Indians.
Our parents were forbidden to speak their own language, or dance their own dances.
They were pushed into government boarding schools that were trying to teach how to be
civilized by learning skills and trades. This meant losing their own identity. We have
been forced to fit into a pattern by the government that was over us.
We came to Alcatraz because we were sick and tired of being pushed around and taken
advantage of everywhere we turn in our own country. We selected Alcatraz for many
reasons but most importantly because it is a place of our own.
We live under a colonial system because we do not select the people who govern us.
We demand to be given ownership of this island in the name of Indians. We feel that this
request is little to ask from a government that has stolen our lands, destroyed a once
beautiful landscape, killed off the creatures of nature, polluted air and water in senseless
1. What did the Federal Government want the Native Americans to do in the past? How
were the Native Americans treated in order to encourage this?

2. How does the speaker feel Native Americans are being treated by the Federal
government today? Give examples.

The Reservation School

The Hopi are a tribe that originally lived in the Southwest Region of the United States.
During the late 18th Century, Mission Schools were established around the edges of the
reservation. These Mission Schools were developed to educate the children of the Hopi tribe in
the ways of American Culture. The Federal Government endorsed these schools all over the
country in the hopes of assimilating the Native Americans. The end goal was to absorb all
reservation land into the United States of America. The Government wanted to eventually break
up Native American tribes and have them live on farms like the homesteaders.


Mission School: schools created in order to change the behavior of its students, whether that
be their religion or their culture.
Assimilate: to become part of another group or culture
Calico: a type of cloth not originally used by Native Americans
Burros: donkeys
Jesus, Ten Commandments: elements of the Christian Religion

The Reservation School
Don C. Talayesva (Hopi)
"In 1899 it was decided that I should go to school.
After a few months, my father came for me and we returned home, riding burros and
bringing presents of calico, lamps, shovels, axes, and other tools. It was joy to get home
again and to tell about my experiences at school. I had learned many English words and
could recite part of the Ten Commandments. I knew how to sleep on a bed, pray to
Jesus, comb my hair, eat with a knife and fork and use a toilet. I had learned the world is
round instead of flat, and that a person thinks with his head instead of his heart.
By the end of the summer, I had enough of hoeing weeds and tending sheep. Helping
my father was hard work and I thought it was better to be educated.
In September, the police came with the intention of capturing the children and taking
them to school by force. They herded us together: the children and mothers were crying
and the fathers wanted to fight. I was not afraid because I had learned a little about
I was glad to go back to school. We ate our food at the door and told the people in the
kitchen that the children were coming in wagons. Then we went to the dormitory and
rested. The next morning we took a bath, had our hair clipped, put on new clothes and
were schoolboys again."
1. Based on the facts presented in the essay, why might the Native Americans NOT
want their children to go to the schools?

2. How did attending the Mission school change the narrator of this essay? (hint, think
of his name!)


The Fate of the Nez Perce Tribe

The Nez Perce are a tribe that originally lived in the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Montana,
and Idaho). They were migratory and moved every season to where food was to be found.
An original treaty between the Nez Perce and the United States created a large reservation that
gave them much of their original land (77 million acres). Later gold was discovered in the area
and the US changed the treaty. They reduced the Nez Perce reservation to a fraction of what is
was before (750,00 acres!)
Chief Joseph was the chief during this time. He and another famous Native American, Sitting
Bull, refused to accept the new treaty. Eventually, in order to avoid moving to the reservation,
he and other members of his tribe fled towards Canada. This action ended in a war in 1877.


Treaty: an agreement, a contract

Acre: a piece of land that is about 75% the size of a football field
Labor: to work

The Fate of the Nez Perce Tribe
Chief Joseph
When my father was a young man there came to our country a white man. He won the
affections of our people because he spoke good things to them. At first he did not say
anything about white men wanting to settle our lands. Nothing was said about that until
a number of white people came into our country and built houses and made farms. At
first our people made no complaint. They thought there was room enough for
all people to live in peace, and they were learning many things from the white men
that seemed to be good. But we soon found that the white men were growing rich very
fast and were greedy to possess everything the Indian had.
When I was chief, I labored hard to avoid trouble and bloodshed. We gave up some of
our country to the white men, thinking we could have peace. We were mistaken. In the
treaty the officials claimed that our country had been sold to the Government. I believe
the old treaty has been broken. If we ever owned the land we own it still, for we
never sold it.
Suppose a white man should come to me and say Joseph, I like your horses and I want
to buy them. I say to him No, my horses suit me, I will not sell them. Then he goes to
my neighbor and says to him: Joseph has some good horses. I want to buy them, but
he refuses to sell. My neighbor answers Pay me the money and I will sell you Josephs
horses. The white man returns to me and says Joseph, I have bought your horses and
you must let me have them If we sold our lands to the Government, this is the way they
were bought.
1. In your own words describe the Nez Perce initial reaction to white settlers.

2. How did this change over time?

2. How does Chief Joseph believe the Government came to possess the land promised to
the Nez Perce tribe?


Testimony about White Mans Promises and Intentions


The Sioux are a large group of Native Americans encompassing many smaller tribes. They were
migratory tribes that lived in the Great Plains.
The 1868 Treaty at Fort Laramie (also know as the Sioux Treaty of 1868) was a treaty between
the United States government and the Lakota Sioux (and a few other Tribes).
This treaty promised the Lakota Sioux that they could own the Black Hills and land in what is
now South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. In exchange for this reservation, the United States
Government required that the Sioux become "civilized" by learning to farm and sending children
to mission schools.
This treaty was broken and replaced with a new one once Americans discovered that gold could
be found in the Black Hills and this inspired war.


Treaty: an agreement, a contract

Mission School: schools created in order to change the behavior of its students, whether that be
their religion or their culture.
Black Hills: a mountain range considered sacred to the local Native Americans; located in the
Northern region of the Great Plains

Testimony About White Mans Promises and Intentions

August 1873
Blackfoot, (Crow, Sioux)
The officers told us at Fort Laramie if we remained good friends of the whites we would
be taken care of for forty years. Since we made the treaty it is only five years. They
told us we would get food till we are old, and our children after us. We would like to
know who built the agency here. They told us they would give us our food. They
promised to send a good agent and good traders, and if they were not good the agents
would be taken away.
When we were in council at Laramie we asked whether we might eat the buffalo for a
long time. They said yes. That is not in the treaty. We told them we wanted a big
country. They said you shall have it. That is not in the treaty. They promised us
plenty of goods, food for forty years...but that is not in the treaty We asked that the
white mans road [through the reservation] should be abandoned, and that the grass be
permitted to grow. They said yes, yes, but that is not in the treaty.

1. What are the differences between the first and the second treaties between the Sioux
and the United States Federal Government?
2. How the United States government honor/ did not honor the treaty?
3. What does this speech say about how the United States Federal Government felt
about Native Americans?


The Ghost Dance

The Sioux are a large group of Native Americans encompassing many smaller tribes. They were
migratory tribes the lived in the Great Plains.
The Ghost Dance was a religious movement started in 1888 adopted by many tribes but most
especially by the Sioux. The Federal Government was afraid of this movement and interpreted it
as a budding military protest. This fear and miscommunication eventually turned into a terrible


Ghost Dance: a religious movement that began during the time when Native Americans
were forced onto reservations
Messiah: a religious leader or "savior"
Treaty: an agreement, or contract
Rations: a fixed amount of food

Reasons for the Trouble Between the Indians and the Government
During the Ghost Dance Excitement of 1890.
Red Cloud (Ogala Sioux)
The government promised us all the means necessary to make our living out of our new
land in the reservation, and to instruct us how to do it. They promised us abundant food
to support us until we could take care of ourselves. We looked forward with hope to the
time when we could become as independent as the whites and have a voice in the
Remember that our little ponies were taken away under the promise that they would be
replaced by oxen and large horses? It was a very long time before we saw any, and then
we got very few. We tried with the means we had to cultivate the land.
An Indian Department was made and these men were supposed to teach us the ways of
the whites. Then came the beginning of the trouble. These men took care of
themselves but not of us. We were prisoners, not in the hands of the army but in the
hands of robbers. Other treaties were made, and it was all the same. Rations were
further reduced.
Then, some one had been talking of the Son of God, and he said He, the Messiah, had
come and we snatched at the hope.
And then Indian Department called for soldiers to shoot down the Indians that had
starved into despair.


1. What did the Ogala Sioux originally want to do when the Federal Government relocated
them to the reservations?
2. How did they feel the government treated them?
3. Why did the Ghost Dance Movement occur?