Skip to main content

Red Power


RED POWER, a movement that began with the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, awakened American Indian people to the possibilities of protest politics. Young Indian college students and Indian people from northern California joined in an organization that reflected their diversity. Named Indians of All Tribes, this group executed an occupation of the former prison island that lasted for nineteen months. Following the Alcatraz occupation, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1972 occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters in Washington, D.C., for seven days. In 1973, American Indians occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota, for seventy-one days.

The Red Power movement set in motion a wave of American Indian militancy that ultimately resulted in abandonment of the U.S. government policy of termination and the adoption of a policy of Indian self-determination. During the Wounded Knee occupation, President Richard Nixon returned Blue Lake and 48,000 acres of land to the Taos pueblo, 40 million acres of land to the Navajo Nation, 21,000 acres of Mount Adams in Washington State to the Yakima tribe, and some 60,000 acres to the Warm Springs tribes of Oregon. The Nixon administration also increased the budget of the BIA by 224 percent and doubled the funds for Indian health care. The Red Power movement ceased to exist as a coherent movement following the killing of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation in 1975. Three members of AIM were prosecuted for the crime. Two were acquitted, but the third, Leonard Peltier, was convicted. Peltier and his supporters insisted on his innocence and condemned the government's conduct at the trial.


Johnson, Troy, Joane Nagel, and Duane Champagne, eds. American Indian Activism: Alcatraz to the Longest Walk. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

Josephy, Alvin M., Joane Nagel, and Troy Johnson, eds. Red Power: The American Indians' Fight for Freedom. 2d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.


See alsoAmerican Indian Movement ; Indian Policy, U.S., 1900–2000 ; Indian Political Life .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Red Power." Dictionary of American History. . 20 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Red Power." Dictionary of American History. . (February 20, 2019).

"Red Power." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.