Red Power

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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 .