Native American history is a theme that runs through all of these projects. The overarching goal for this project is to increase awareness of and educate people about the Native American history of Alcatraz Island. Funding for the projects is expected to come from the federal government, donations, and the $26 fee to visit Alcatraz Island. The success of the projects would depend on cooperation between researchers, the NPS, and the Native American community, in order to gain more information and implement the activities.
Project # 1: Increased Tangible Heritage on Alcatraz Island
Specific objectives for this project include drawing attention to the Native American heritage on Alcatraz Island and preserving remaining tangible heritage, particularly graffiti. This project would entail setting up plaques around the island to help users find the graffiti and help viewers decipher what they say, installing memorials, preserving the remaining graffiti and developing an interpretive trail as an audio tour.
Project # 2: Storytelling
The particular goals for this project are to honor and revitalize Native traditions of storytelling, to provide employment for Bay Area Native Americans, and to teach visitors about Native American values, such as community and respect for elders. During the activity the visitors would gather around the campfire. Traditional foods like fry bread and coffee would be served. The stories would concentrate on the Native American presence on the island, as well as some traditional Native American tales. The content and delivery would largely be at the discretion of the storyteller.
This activity would start on the ferry ride to Alcatraz, during which Native American actors would explain briefly the history of the occupation. On the island, the visitors would then be escorted to the Warden’s House, which was the Native American headquarters during the occupation. Here the audience would experience a celebratory powwow, and afterwards hear the story about life on Alcatraz during the occupation and the speech by Richard Oakes. Visitors would also experience aspects of Native American culture such as jewelry-making. Finally, actors dressed as US marshals would escort visitors back to the ferry.
Project # 4: Picture Scavenger Hunt
Some specific goals for this project include encouraging research on Native American history, increasing visitor participation and expanding the representation of the island’s Native American history online. The participants would listen to an informative talk about Native American history. They would then be lent cameras and given brochures outlining the subjects of the history, and instructed to go around the island and take pictures of each subject, which would finally be compiled on a web site.
Project # 5: A Play of Multiple Voices
This project aims to establish ties among the communities involved with Alcatraz Island and its history. For this activity, an online survey would be created, collecting the input from all the key players of Alcatraz Island. Some additional interviews could also be conducted. On the basis of the collected information the play would be written and performed.
To read more about these Project Profiles, please go to the main page (Alcatraz – Native American Presence and Occupation) in order to download the full Site Management Plan.
People on Site and Scientific Interest Groups
Currently no permanent populations live on the island. Most of the people present on the island are visitors, NPS park rangers, volunteers for the Alcatraz Garden project and contractors who work on renovation. No archaeological research is currently being done on Alcatraz, as most of the research has been taken off site.
Some of the key players are the organizations involved with Alcatraz, such as the PRBO and the U.S. Geological Survey, who are currently conducting a Landscape Survey. Outside of the NPS, there are groups that try to help keep our national parks accessible, such as The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), who are a nonpartisan group working to minimize threats to national parks.
Some other key players include visitors from different countries and regions, as well as recreationists like marathoners and hikers. The US National Park Service is working on developing sister park relationships with national parks all over the world. Other key players include school groups: part of the NPS budget is reserved for education.
Native Americans are also important key players for Alcatraz. This group includes the local Miwok and Ohlone Indians, those Indians who occupied Alcatraz from 1969 to 1971, and many other Native Americans for whom this island is a symbol of the Native American movement.
Local business key players include all hotels, shops, restaurants, and tour companies that have ties to Alcatraz Island.
Another group of key players includes the descendants of prisoners and the Federal Penitentiary employees at Alcatraz Island.
The following is a list of sponsors:
• Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (The Gardens of Alcatraz)
• Federal Bureau of Prisons (Inmates perform maintenance work)
• The Friends of Civil War Alcatraz (docents of Civil War history)
• American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (solar panels to be installed on the island)
• Save American’s Treasures (Garden restoration)
• Alcatraz Cruises
The following is a list of academic partners:
• Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy Native Plant Nurseries
• American Youth Hostels
• Bay Area Discovery Museum
• Headlands Institute
• YMCA Point Bonita Outdoor & Conference Center San Francisco
To learn more, please go to the main page (Alcatraz – Native American Presence and Occupation) in order to download the full Site Management Plan.
By Tatyana Kovaleva
Ownership and Legal Status
Alcatraz Island is managed by the National Park Service, one of eight bureaus run by the Department of the Interior, a Cabinet-level agency of the US Government. It is a part of the NPS Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GOGA). As a national park, Alcatraz is under the jurisdiction of Parks, Forest, and Public Property Code of Federal Regulations.
Buildings and Visitor Facilities
The island as a NPS and GGNRA park.
There are numerous buildings on the island, including the Guardhouse, the Cellhouse, the Officer’s Club, the Warden’s House, the Lighthouse, the Warehouse, the Power Plant, the Electrical Repair Shop, the Modern Industries Building, the New Industries Building, the Morgue, and the Recreation Yard. There are also gardens, including the Officer’s Row Gardens alongside the Cellhouse. Alcatraz includes a Parade Ground area and numerous trails and pathways that are accessible to visitors such as the Agave Trail.
Condition of the Site
An example of the ruins at Alcatraz.
The condition of buildings on Alcatraz varies. Some buildings, such as the Cellhouse and the Guardhouse, are renovated and accessible to the public. Other buildings, like the New Industries Building, are renovated externally, but are closed to visitors. Some structures, like the Warden’s House, have nothing but outside walls remaining.
Many measures have been taken to preserve the man-made structures of Alcatraz and the natural features of the island. Organizations like PRBO, the US Geological Survey, Lutsko Associates, the Olmsted Center, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy strive to preserve and properly manage the bird populations and the gardens of Alcatraz.
Current Points of Interpretation
The primary perspective of interpretation of Alcatraz is that of a federal penitentiary, because most of the surviving structures pertain to that period, which is also the most documented. Other aspects of history, such as the Native American presence or the military fort, are under-represented.
Tourist and Visitor Profiles
Alcatraz Cruises is the only commercial company that is allowed to dock on Alcatraz Island.
The Alcatraz experience is targeted at the general public, rather than specific groups. However, there are certain accommodations for groups with special needs, such as people with limited mobility. The Alcatraz management offers the Cellhouse guided audio tour in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Mandarin, Portuguese and Korean languages. Alcatraz Island does not have age-specific programs.
By Tatyana Kovaleva
In determining the significance of Alcatraz Island, the island’s different values must be taken into account. Alcatraz Island has restitutive, cultural, economic, environmental, historical, social and spiritual values. It represents a pivotal moment for the Native American movement and also has considerable historic value as a former Military Fortress and as a Federal Penitentiary.
The environmental values of Alcatraz include unique geological formations, rare birds, and an abundance of plants. The flora on Alcatraz have significant value because they were introduced to the island and cultivated for decades.
Social, Spiritual and Symbolic Values
Since Alcatraz has a significant amount of history, it also has a significant amount of social, spiritual and symbolic value. For Native Americans the island stands as a symbol of Native American activism and to them it always has been and always will be “Indian Land”. With the advent of the “Unthanksgiving” ceremony, Alcatraz Island has also become a place with spiritual values. The island’s social values pertain to anyone who has had a relationship to the island, for example prisoners, prison guards and their families during the island’s time as a federal penitentiary.
By realizing the overall significance of Alcatraz Island, the National Park Service has created a well thought-out and comprehensive management plan that helps to preserve the island’s values and minimize the threats to the site. The aim of this management plan has been to conserve and protect the island’s significance and to make it available for future generations to appreciate. Nevertheless, the National Park Service should place more emphasis on the period (1969-1971) when it was occupied by Native Americans.
View of SF from Alcatraz
By Julia Frers-Karno