Richard Oakes

Richard Oakes: A Native American Human Rights Activist

Native American activist Richard Oakes was honored on May 22 with a Google Doodle. On this day the anniversary of his birth occurred. He is remembered for creating one of the Native American study departments in the nation. Furthermore, it is known for having worked hard for the ‘ occupation of the island of Alcatraz.

Richard Oakes mobilized to promote the idea that indigenous peoples had the right to sovereignty, justice, respect and control over their own destiny.

Its legacy is reflected in the struggles of the indigenous peoples for the possession of their lands, identity and their lives.

The Oakes story for Native American rights

Richard Oakes was born on May 22, 1942. He was a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk tribe, which originated between the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. He spent most of his childhood doing fishing and planting jobs. With the construction of Seaway’s San Lawrence, through a system of irrigation channels, Oakes found himself changing his life. In fact, he started working as a port unloader and steelworker.

After getting married, divorced and has a son, Richard Oakes moved to the University of San Francisco. He played a vital role, along with a professor of anthropology, in building a department of Native American studies and more, he encouraged the other natives to enroll.

Oakes became a champion of social justice for Native American rights. In 1969 he led a series of protests and came to occupy the island of Alcatraz.

The famous Alcatraz protest

“We call on the Member States to recognize the justice of our request. The choice is now up to the heads of the American government.”

So said Richard Oakes in a message to the San Francisco Office of the Interior Department.

Richard Oakes, along with a group of students from SFSU and UCLA, occupied Alcatraz from 1969 to 1971. The goal was to gain ownership of the island and create an independent community where the natives could live freely. Not only did he build museums and cultural centers, but he made a commitment that the Indians could use the end-of-life federal land as their own.

In 1970, Oakes received a phone call, confirming the death of his adopted daughter, for which he decided to return home. The government, after the return of Oakes, managed to clear the demonstration. The fact is that this “indigenous” protest remained the longest within a federal state.

Although the dispute was considered a failure, it managed to influence the policy and treatment of Native Americans in the United States. The self-determination of the indigenous people allowed the establishment of government subsidies for Native Americans.

Indians, Native Americans or Native Americans

The term “Redskin” is not exact. The mistake was made by Christopher Columbus, who, when he landed in the Americas, though he had discovered the Indies. Therefore, he called these populations “Indian”. After the discovery of America, he realized that the most exact term for these populations was “American Indians”.

The American Indians were the first colonizers of North America. Their story with the “white” man began in 1610, with the landing of the English colonists on Virginia.

At the time of the arrival of the English populations, North America was inhabited by three million Indians. In the northern forests were the Mohicans and the Iroquois; in the northern prairies the Sioux and Cheyenne and in the southern plains the Apache and Navajo.

There were various battles, even bloody, between Native Americans – confined to Indian reservations – and the American army. The reserves were arid lands, on which it was not possible to invest economically. This the Americans knew and that is why the natives were confined to these territories. The long fought against the white invader: the battle of Sand Creek, won by the American army and the Battle of Little Big Horne, to name the best known. The natives reported an unprecedented victory in the latter battle.

The epic of the west ended in 1886, with the surrender of the last Indian rebel Geronimo, who was sent to a prison in Florida. Members of his tribe, Apache, were confined to Oklahoma, the repository of Indian peoples.

Only with the counterculture of the “beat generation” of the 50s and with the “flower power” of the 60s, there was a revision of the culture of the natives.

Today, the descendants of the native populations are stationed in different areas of the United States.

Chowdhury Shahid-uz-zaman

Chowdhury Shahid Uz Zaman Russell is a blogger who loves to explore new things. His passion for helping people in all aspects of daily things flows through in the respected industries coverage he provides.  He graduated from Open University with major in marketing. He writes for several sites online such as,

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