Alcatraz Island will once again be occupied by Native Americans — a permanent art exhibit celebrating the historic Native American occupation of 1969 is set to open on April 28.
The multi-media exhibit titled “We Are Still Here” was put together by native artists and activists, California State University East Bay, San Francisco State University students and faculty, including members of the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations, SKINS.
“I have worked with SFSU and CAL State University East Bay students, and a lot of this is done by students,” said Philip Klasky, American Indian Studies Professor and exhibit coordinator.
For the past 56 years, SKINS has carried on the legacy of Richard Oakes, a Mohawk Native American and activist who led the 19 month protest action of Alcatraz Island with the help of SFSU students and indigenous members of the community.
“The exhibit is about the Alcatraz Occupation, and so it’s groundbreaking because Alcatraz Island doesn’t have any history or documents about the American Indian movement and the whole Red Power movement, and now we finally got a piece of history,” says Rafael Moreno Co-Northern Chair or SKINS.
Three years ago the same exhibit was at the student art gallery for a month. During that month an Alcatraz Ranger came to see the exhibit and said “I want this on Alcatraz Island,” added Klasky.
Unable to guarantee the exhibit a permanent space, it stayed on the island for seven months. The Native people in the community were able to summon the attention of the National Park Service and lobbied for the exhibit to be permanent.
SKINS will be involved in the installation and opening reception of the exhibit. Members will have a chance to speak on the importance of the exhibit and share their poetry.
“We are very excited that this exhibit will give visibility to American Indian Activism, and American Indians as a whole,” said Klasky.
The Organization looks ahead
“[SKINS] Originally started as recruitment to native students,” says Rafael Moreno, Co-Northern Chair of SKINS, ” now it’s developed to show a constant presence and shows support to other indigenous folks.”
SKINS is constantly seeking new members. The group is relatively small with roughly 15 participants. Despite it’s size, SKINS is able to impact the community with the help of faculty from the American Indian Studies department, students, and the wider indigenous community in San Francisco.
With many of its members graduating at the end of the year, it is imperative for SKINS to find new members to ensure its survival.
SKINS recently had its first Open House last Monday in an effort to introduce students to the group. The senior members described the goals and activities of their group and provided refreshments. They hope prospective members will join and take up the responsibilities need in order to preserve their historic group.
“Student group that throws events to bring Native Americans from both the SF State campus and the Bay Area, together,” says Lina Trujillo, Co-Northern Chair of SKINS.
“There is indigenous people on this campus … We are here,” said Moreno.