Many Americans still don’t have an idea about the existence of the most prominent Native American and Indian activist- Richard Oakes. His work for the change in U.S federal Government termination policies is exemplary. He had guts of steel and he forced the U.S president Nixon to something about it. His remarkable and Ideal struggles for the rights of Native Americans changed the poor and shy living style of many people. The most prominent work in his life is the ‘ Occupation of Alcatraz’. He was the main guy for most of the American Indian people. They looked up to him for finding a solution to their problems. He never let them down and helped them in every way he could. Oakes gained popularity and success after a great amount of pain and struggle. He was assassinated when he was just 30 years old.
The early life of Richard Oakes
Richard Oakes was born in the Mohawk Culture of the American Indian people. He was born during World War 2 on May 22nd in 1942. He was born in the US reservations of St. Regis Mohawk which spread to the American Canadian border. From an early age, he was taught respect and kindness from the American Indian community. The Native American people were very well mannered and they had great values. Richard Oakes also learned a lot from them.
He learned to plant with the help of the community people and fishing beans too. These were the most important hobbies in his childhood. He loved doing it. He started his work life in the dock and he soon left it because of the atrocities there. Richard Oakes got his early education from the city of New York and he was a very bright student at that time.
Some Good Things of His Life
After the dock job he also got a steel working job which required traveling most of the time. During his travel days, he met an Italian American and then he married her. They were very happy and also had a son named Bryan Oakes. Soon things started getting squishy and he left both of them and divorced her. He moved west after the divorce.
Oakes realized that higher education is really necessary if you want to succeed in life. He got himself enrolled in the San Francisco State Univesity and there he met his Native American community. He got really close to them and realized that they have something common. Richard Oakes decided to introduce a new course named ‘Native American Studies’ in the curriculum. He got all of the American Indian community together filled a petition at the university. He got old American Indian Historians to teach this subject. This was a huge success for everyone at the university.
Richard Oakes as an Activist
Richard Oakes faced a lot of struggles while he was trying to introduce a course for Native American studies. He faced a lot of criticism for that. That was the time when the Mohawk culture was struggling and they were fighting to stop the oppression of their religion. They began a peaceful war and nobody was hurt. Mohawks were the most peaceful people in America. They didn’t want to hurt anybody and they made the war as peaceful as possible. Richard was also very impressed by this gesture of those people and he was also quite shocked. He decided to join this noble cause for the Good of mankind and his people.
During his studies at the San Francisco State University, he called in for a rally to raise awareness about the forgotten history of the Native American people. For promoting the Native American studies and their music they also traveled to very sacred and symbolic island of the Alcatraz for the Indian people. This travel was mainly for the attention of the Government towards the condition of the Mohawk community and the Native Americans.
The Alcatraz Island Occupation
This was the longest example of federal activism in the United States. Many Native Americans took their boats out to go to the Alcatraz island but all their efforts were in vain. They did not have what it takes to take to cross the sea and go on to the Island. Just in case if you are wondering that who saved them then the answer is right in the article’s title. Richard Oakes swam all the way through the ocean waves and found himself taking control of all the boats.
He was considered a pioneer and the leadership skills he had made him get all the support of people around him. He never resisted and he never let anyone down. Oakes got what he wanted every time he took an oath. He fulfilled every promise he made with these people. He also sacrificed his 12-year-old adopted daughter in the Alcatraz Island. This put everyone in chaos and panic. That’s where things started to the shakedown. The Alcatraz occupation continued for 19 long months until the authorities came into acclaim their property back.
The Assassination of Oakes
Richard Oakes made quite a lot of enemies during his stay on the Alcatraz Islands. This activist operation proved very dangerous for him since he got murdered by a maniac. The white supremacist who killed Oakes was a guy named Morgan. He was known to have an extreme hatred for Native Americans and their children. Oakes hated them to death and made sure nobody knew what happened exactly. He was later found guilty of manslaughter but a grand jury acquitted him on the grounds of self-defense. This made people extremely mad and many protests were organized. Many Native Americans lost hope after that and they decided to confront the judicial system.
The life of Richard Oakes is all about compassion and integrity. We can too learn something from this guy and help our community if they are in need. He could have ignored everything and lived carefreely but he decided to do something for the oppressed.