Our Pacific Northwest
Preserving Protest From the Past
The San Francisco Chronicle reported today that the National Park Service, usually in charge of preserving the natural world, has made efforts to restore graffiti on a water tower on Alcatraz Island. Normally graffiti within the boundary of a national park is a federal offense; this graffiti was made by American Indian protesters who occupied the island from the winter of 1969 to the spring of 1971. The piece of graffiti restored is a painted 5-foot tall sentence stating: “Peace and Freedom Welcome Home Of The Free Indian Land”. The standoff between the protesters and the federal government made national headlines and helped fuel the Native American equality movement at the time. According to the report, the National Park Service restored the piece because of its social significance, and because that is what they believe the park is all about. Although little else remains of the Native American occupation today, the deteriorating water tower recently underwent a $1.5 million restoration, further preserving a little-known piece of protest history in our Pacific Northwest.