May 22, 2017
Richard Oakes’ 75th Birthday
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Richard Oakes made a stand for the rights of American Indians. Over his time as an activist, he fought peacefully for freedom, justice, and the right of American Indians to have control over their lands.
Oakes grew up on the Mohawk Indian reservation in Akwesasne, on the Canadian / New York border. When he was 18, he moved to San Francisco, and enrolled in San Francisco State University shortly after. There, his passion for empowerment through education led him to play an integral role in creating one of the first American Indian studies programs in the nation.
Oakes went on to be a champion for social justice in his community. His most powerful protest happened in 1969 when he led a group of activists occupying Alcatraz Island. The aim was not only to set up a community, complete with a university, museum and cultural center, but also for the government to acknowledge the rights of American Indians to claim the out-of-use federal land as their own.
Although Richard didn't succeed in gaining the deeds to Alcatraz for his people, he brought their issues into the media spotlight and made a substantial impact on the treatment of American Indians in the US. He also went on to assist the Pit River Tribe in their claim for land in Northern California.
Today's Doodle recognizes places that were important in his life's story and mission, depicting the Akwesasne reservation, Alcatraz Island, and Pit River.
Here's to Richard Oakes, for his unwavering dedication to his community and social justice.