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Richard Oakes
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Native American Icon
    (May 22, 1942-September 20, 1972)
    Born in Akwesasne, New York
    American Indian rights activist
    Member of the Mowhawk tribe
    Co-founder of Indians of All Tribes (IOAT)
    Led the Occupation of Alcatraz (Nov. 20, 1969)
    Advocated introducing Native American studies departments in schools
    Shot and killed in Sonoma, California, by YMCA camp manager Michael Morgan, following a heated argument (Sept. 1972)
    He had a quick temper.
    He dropped out of high school at 16.
    He left his first wife and their child to move to San Francisco.
    The press dubbed him 'the Mayor of Alcatraz.'
    He initiated the Alcatraz occupation by tearing off his shirt and diving off his Student Union's chartered boat, backstroking to shore and claiming the island by right of discovery.
    He clashed vocally with other tribal leaders over the direction of the Occupation.
    Part of the Alcatraz Proclamation he unveiled to the General Services Administration called for the purchase of the Alcatraz prison island 'for 24 dollars in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man's purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago.'
    He held jobs as a high steelworker, seaway dock loader, and a bartender.
    He actively helped to develop the curriculum for the first collegiate American Indian studies program.
    He endured tear gas, billy clubs, and brief stints in jail, despite utilizing peaceful methods of protest.
    During one encounter, he was viciously beaten and put in a coma before being saved by two Haudenosaunee healers.
    He was the organizational backbone of the Occupation, forcibly removing troublemakers from the island and forming a council to see to the needs of the residents (sanitation, employment, healthcare, etc.)
    He withdrew involvement in the protest after his twelve-year old daughter fell to her death on concrete steps (from that point onward the Occupation slowly began to crumble).
    He assisted the Pit River Tribe in their attempts to recover tribal land rights seized by Pacific Gas and Electric (1971).
    He had plans to create a Native Peace Corps and a 'mobile university' dedicated to creating opportunity for Indian communities, but he died before they could become a reality.
    His protest drew public attention toward the problems facing the American Indian community, forcing a response even from President Nixon (who called for a new policy of 'self-determination without termination' toward Indian-Government relations in a July 8, 1970 address).
    The details of his death are extremely murky - e.g. Morgan had a reputation for being abusive towards Native children, claimed to have 'feared for his life' (wow, where have we heard that one before?)

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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