Since the Native Americans were present in the west long before the Gold Rush and before the Europeans stepped foot on this side of the U.S., they felt they had claim to Alcatraz Island. With the close of Alcatraz as a Federal Penitentiary, it left plans wide open for other ideas on what to do with the island. The government had left Alcatraz vacant for almost six years which left the door open for the Native Americans. They took over Alcatraz on November 20, 1969. The occupation of the island lasted little less than 18 months.

A Sad Goodbye
On June 11, 1971 the last of the Native Americans were escorted off the island. The original plans for the island was to build a University, Thunderbird University, for Native Americans, but they soon discovered what the government had already learned. Alcatraz is an extremely expensive place to live. When the Native Americans ran short on financial backing and began to get hungry, they sold metal scraps from the buildings on Alcatraz and also let anyone, bearing food or money, come to the island. The Native Americans also left behind a good portion of graffitti which can still be seen on some of the buildings today. Alcatraz was now in a sad state of disrepair. Along with the other damage, fires had destroyed buildings and the lighthouse.