This Day in History

Dec. 22, 1969: Radio Free Alcatraz

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Native American
Radio Free Alcatraz

John Trudell speaks with news media representatives regarding negotiations with the federal government for title to Alcatraz Island. Photo from Troy Johnson’s web collection.

On Dec. 22, 1969, John Trudell broadcast Radio Free Alcatraz for the first time from the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island.

As explained in “The Pirate Radio Broadcaster Who Occupied Alcatraz and Terrified the FBI” in Narratively,

Trudell was advocating for Native American self-determination, explaining its moral and political importance to all Americans.

On air, he often revealed the innumerable ways the government was violating Native American rights: obstructing fishing access in Washington State, setting unfair prices on tribal lands, removing Native American children from local schools.

But he didn’t just reveal the cruel contradictions at the heart of American society. He imagined a future in which equality — between different American cultures, and between all people and the earth itself — would become a reality

For more about the life of John Trudell, see the Independent Lens PBS website for the film Trudell.