SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A multimedia exhibit on the historic Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island opened this weekend on the Rock.

In 1969, members from a number of American Indian tribes began their occupation of Alcatraz with the stated intention of gaining control over the island for purposes of building a center for Native American studies.

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The occupation was forcibly ended by the U.S. government, said San Francisco State American Indian Studies Professor Phil Klasky.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

“This 19-month occupation saw about 20,000 American Indians coming through,” Klasky said. “And after those folks came through Alcatraz and were inspired by it, they went on to do other types of activism for American Indians.”

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Klasky said the three-month exhibit will feature photographs, audio interviews and archival footage depicting American Indian activism for civil rights, land rights and sovereignty.

“Tourists come to Alcatraz and they want to see Al Capone’s cell and the Birdman of Alcatraz,” he said. “And they really don’t know that there were Hopi Elders imprisoned at Alcatraz because they refused to change their ways of farming.”

Klasky said he hopes that visitors will step away from the exhibit knowing that Alcatraz was more than a penitentiary, but also the birthplace of “The Red Power Movement.”

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