The Alcatraz Proclamation has great significance to American history because it highlights the experiences of the American Indians as a marginalized group in the United States during the 20th century. Before the Alcatraz Proclamation, the American Indians underwent through a period of discrimination and marginalization in that the American government bought their native land very cheaply and made it a federal land.
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Basing on the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), which gives the native people the power to reclaim any form of land that is out-of-use, abandoned, or retired so long as it is their native land, the American Indians made a solemn proclamation to reclaim Alcatraz Island (Danver 1031). However, the federal government opposed the reclamation of Alcatraz Island because it wanted the American Indians to assimilate into the American culture and adopt a civilized way of life. Therefore, this essay aims to discuss and describe the qualities and aspects of the Alcatraz Proclamation concerning American civilization history.
Given that the American Indians belong to the minority groups in the United States, they experienced racial discrimination and marginalization. Fundamentally, socioeconomic conditions of the American Indians were so poor in that Danver asserts that families survived on income that is “a quarter of the national average and had a life expectancy of 21 years shorter than the national average” (1031).
The Alcatraz Proclamation captures the conditions of American Indians by noting that Alcatraz Island was better than their reservations because it had no essential utilities and facilities such as communication infrastructure, freshwater, appropriate sanitation facilities, healthcare facilities, and educational facilities. Moreover, the Alcatraz Proclamation notes that Alcatraz Island lacked industries, and the land was unproductive, and thus, the American Indians lived in abject poverty characterized by high unemployment rates. Hence, the Alcatraz Proclamation is very significant because it depicts the socioeconomic conditions of the American Indians concerning their culture.
Analysis of the socio-economic conditions of the American Indians indicates that their culture and reservations contributed to their depraved lifestyles. To empower the American Indians, the federal government displaced them in their ancestral land and relocated them to urban centers so that they could keep in tandem with the civilized world (Danver 1033). The federal government reasoned that if the American Indians continued to stay in remote areas like Alcatraz Island, they would cherish their retrogressive cultural norms and traditions, which prevent them from attaining the civilized status of the contemporary American society.
The reasoning made the federal government decline the reclamation request of the American Indians in contrast to the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), which allows the native people to reclaim their land when it is out-of-use, abandoned, or retired. Thus, the Alcatraz Proclamation has great cultural significance because it highlights why the federal government denied them to reclaim Alcatraz Island, yet it was rightfully theirs.
Protests and activisms dominated American society during the 19th and 20th centuries, as the minority groups such as the Black Americans and American Indians started to advocate for their rights. When American Indians noted that the federal government, under the power of the White Americans discriminated against them, they protested and devised a smart way of protesting peacefully. The Alcatraz Proclamation depicts an aspect of discrimination and racism as it notes that the American Indians were willing to reclaim their land by buying it at the cost of $1.24 for each acre, which is expensive when compared the cost the White Americans paid in acquiring the native land of the Californian Indians (Danver 1035).
Essentially, the Alcatraz Proclamation is satirical because the American Indians wanted to treat the White Americans the same way they treated them. In the protest, the American Indians present an offer to the White Americans, which is demeaning and discriminative. The offer mentions that the White Americans should accept American Indians to hold their land in trust, teach them Indian religion, provide Indian education, and enable them to achieve the Indian level of civilization.
Danver, Steven. Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2011. Print.