Living Legacies from the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz


January 29, 2022

Rafu Shimpo

Japanese Americans were imprisoned in concentration camps by the U.S. governement in 1942 and stripped of their Constitutional Rights. Many of these camps were set up on indigenous tribal reservations against the wishes of those reservations. Regardless, there is a long history of solidarity between Japanese Americans and indigenous peoples to learn from.

In March 1970, Gidra published “Asians Make Waves to Alcatraz…” written by Marlene Tanioka and Aileen Yamaguchi.  What follows are excerpts from the article:

Tsuru for Solidarity members at the 52nd commemoration of AZ69, 2021 with their giant cranes: (from left) Shoshana Arai, Emiko Omori, Akemi Ina (holding her giant tsuru), (in back) Nancy Ukai and Kimiko Marr. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Ukai)

“On Feb. 14, about 20 of us of various ages, 15 to 60, sailed to Alcatraz to personalize the Japanese American Citizens League Committee to Repeal Title II’s sincere concern for our Third World brothers.

Japanese Americans Boat the Rock

“. . .George Uehara, chairman of the Alcatraz Project, Ko Ijichi, Joseph Morozumi, Steven and Greg Morozumi, Dennis Wong and Leroy Saunders arrived with many crates of fruits and vegetables. . . .  While we were waiting for our fishing boat, the following supporters joined the already waiting group:  Fumi Ukai, Ron Kobata, Glenn Watanabe, Mary Ann Takagi, Rev. Lloyd Wake, Doreen Uyehara, Mitsue Yashima, Sara Takashige, Isao Tanaka, and several others.

“The group was warmly welcomed by Grace Thorpe, Young Raymond, Marilyn Miracle and Stella Leach and given a tour of their living quarters and the relics of the former prison that made Alcatraz famous. The visitors learned of the history of broken treaties, and how the Indians who fought against California joining the union in the mid-1800s were ‘thrown into Spanish dungeons, deep under Alcatraz.’

“The visitors met people of all ages from tribes who came together for the first time:  Sioux, Piute, Apache, Mohawk and Navaho. They also talked with Indian Vietnam veterans who ‘were now returning to fight their own real struggle.’’’

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