top of page
  • Writer's pictureAntonio Gonzales

Transcript of Tony's Interview with Eloy Martinez from 03-10-2023's Across Indian Lands

Across Indian Lands 03-10-2023

This transcript was edited and proofed for accuracy, made with the help of the built-in transcription & dictation feature in Microsoft Word. If you find any errors in this transcription please feel free to leave us a message by going here to Contact us.

To hear to the original audio, go to and click on March 10th, 2023’s episode to listen or download.

00:00:01 Tony Gonzales

Aho all my relations, welcome to another segment Across Indian Land. This is Tony Gonzalez, your host tonight, March 10th, and this evening we'll be talking with Eloy Martinez. Eloy Martinez, as some of you might know or recall, [has] spoken to us several times on KPFA radio. In the past and Eloy is among those individuals who took over Alcatraz Island back in November [of] 69, and it went on for 19 months through June of 1971.

Eloy, as a Chicano indigenous person, is also the link historian for many of us throughout Aztlan or the southwest, and the role and the relationship that he had with some of the leadership there at Alcatraz. During that time, including Richard Oakes, Mickey Gimmel and many of those others that are no longer with us, but he'll be talking to us tonight about unfinished business: What still needs to be acquired there for Alcatraz to be complete—and some of those promises that were made then was for a Cultural Center and a museum or an interpretive center of some kind. So, my relatives let's tune into Eloy Martinez and what he has to share with us tonight.

Also, just a reminder next week we'll try and have on the show…here on Across Indian land: Bradley Angel of Green Action, and he'll provide some of the leadership of the [Indigenous People] who are protecting their sacred sites from gold mining by prospectors… [gold prospecting and mining is] still going on my relatives. So, let's Tune in on that next week and you can call right now if you want to… [call about] of the activities they're planning for March the 18th [against the gold mining] you can call at 928- 210-0114 that's 928-210-0114 for preparations to protect sacred land.

All my relatives I invited this evening tonight to talk with, Eloy Martinez. Some of you have heard him before, on past job programming here, on Across Indian Land—and also Bay Native Circle our programming on Wednesdays here on KPFA. But Eloy Martinez is among those warriors with the men and women and children who back in November 1969 took the island of Alcatraz, and it's a very historic [moment].

Fast forward, today we have the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but by and large it emanated from Community actions and takeovers that had to be done, such as what the Indians of all tribes in this case did there at Alcatraz Island November for 19 months through June of 1971 and [with] you Eloy, there's some unfinished business. I heard you eloquently speaking rather extensively on our sister program, KPOO here in San Francisco about your experiences and what you would like to see further to be done at Alcatraz. Although you know, thanks to yourself and many California Indian Warriors, we're able to now go to Alcatraz during October for Indigenous Peoples Day and also for Thanks-taking/Thanksgiving (or the day of the Turkey) in November at the island. But please either way, if you can reintroduce yourself, we'll be. Briefly and tell us about your times at Alcatraz. That was what, 50-54 years ago? My goodness!

00:04:39 Eloy Martinez

Fifty-four years, Yeah, 54 years, yeah. My name is Eloy Martinez. I was invited to partake in the 1969 occupation by Richard Oakes. You know, so I went there because of him and nobody else because I didn't know any anybody else at that time. And he was the main recruiter, so I've always looked at him...and even the people that were in Alcatraz actually voted him as the most, you know, as the leader of the occupation and he's, you know, he had a long history there. But so, in all during 1969 through 70…when I was there, I was only there maybe a real short time actually because I was in a leadership training program at UC Berkeley at the time. So, I had to attend her out there, but I had a Volkswagen bus and I was pretty much transportation for a lot of people back and forth to Alcatraz—because they were coming on and off the island, [also I was] just picking up donations and supplies and other things for the island. So, I've been involved for a long time.

In I think 1983 or 87…They invited me to come to Alcatraz to help [with] the fire. And one of the guys that was doing the fire, his wife was getting sick so, he asked me if I'd do it temporarily. So, I've basically been on the fire for the sunrise ceremony and Un-Thanksgiving since then, temporarily. I've been on the fire temporary for that many years.

So, but anyway I got more involved in there. I got involved with Richard on the island in 1969 and I was involved with him even after he was hurt. We went after Alcatraz, we went up north to uh [see]—that was Ramona Bennett, Billy Frank, Frank's Landing fishing Rights People, you know, Hanford McLeod, Connie McLeod, Janet McLeod—all the people from up north and established communications with a lot of folks. And that's what Richard was doing. He actually [was] part of some of the things came out was the Daybreak Center in Washington. They also have a United Indians Incorporated I think in Washington also so, but all of that kind of tied everybody together.

But what the occupation [of Alcatraz] did was, you know, before the occupation of Alcatraz, there was a lot of heroes and, other people that kept doing stuff that were never mentioned. You know, in 1964 the first occupation happened on Alcatraz, which Richard McKenzie, [and] I think Russell Means was involved there (I think he was one of the kids that was there) and Malva Cotier, who was an instructor at San Francisco State when Richard Oakes [was a student] and all the students [like] Al Miller and the rest of the students at San Francisco State—[Malva] was the director that. [Malva] was kind of [addressing how] the Indian never started the Indian Affairs Indian Classes…[and] establishing the Indigenous] professorship there. Anyway, she brought it up, and they were talking about it…in 1964. They stayed for a little while, they claimed the island, and then they left the island...

00:08:12 Tony Gonzales

Excuse me, Eloy. When they arrived there in 1964, it was [to bring attention to] the Treaties and the and the federal government’s obligation?

00:08:26 Eloy Martinez

1868 Letterman Treaty…Anyways what it said was it any land that was not occupied by the federal government had to revert to the Native Americans…that's what they're saying it was based on. Malva Cotier talked to Richard and some of the students at San Francisco State, and that's where it began. You know, but it began with them and there was about six of them that went in 64 and, I think it's important to mention them because they were there to start the process.

T­­hen…so nothing basically happened [for a while] …and in 69 they started talking about doing it [again] and [that] it was going to happen in 1970. They weren't going to go out there in 1969. The next occupation] was going to happen in 1970, in the spring when all the students were out of out of school. And you know, by then, Berkeley and San Francisco State had hooked up the colleges in Los Angeles.

Everywhere Richard had gone, he went and recruited a whole bunch of college students from all over the all over California. So, he was the main recruiter to bring people out there. So…he was elected pretty much elected to be the spokesperson on Alcatraz for the rest of the tribes by I think it was about 78 [votes] to maybe 13 votes that were casted.

Actually, Indian Joe Morris, who played the trumpet for a long time on the sunrise ceremonies, he's he passed away in 2009. But anyway, he did a lot of the artwork that that's out there on the island and some other posters and a whole bunch of stuff. And he was also a longshoreman who contributed a lot. He actually got the longshoremen to sanction the occupation. So, some of those, some of those people that are unsung heroes, you know, they need to get mentioned. Also, because that was the beginning of it... But anyway, Joe Morris, he actually called Richard Oakes the first urban chief, you know. So, I always look at him in that in [those] terms as the first urban chief because, you know, I don't know of any place else that's happened.

Anyway, when Richard jumped in the water, going across the water on the first ride around the island and Adam Broadwell and portion of Eagle and Richard and Al Miller and Bunch other people had hooked up. They were going around the island and Richard jumped in the water then, Jim Vaughn jumped in the water, Ross Harden, and Joe Beal. I think just total five people went in the water. But when Richard jumped in the water, I like to refer to that moment as the spark that lit the Red Power movement in the Bay Area because it caught everybody's attention. You know the media was out there and it was like…something that had never been done [before]. So, by him doing that, you know, I think it created that leadership quality that people…identified him [as] being that person.

So, but there was a lot of a lot of stuff that went on Alcatraz and the tragic events happened when…Annie and Richard lost their daughter Yvonne, on the island. So, Annie didn’t want to stay there no more, you know, she was done with Alcatraz because of that. And so, they left the island. And then when he left the island, I left the island at the same time. Because, you know, I went there because of him, and he was still running around all over the country.

You know, [Richard] did a lot of stuff with pit river with Mickey Gammell and some of the other folks that were fighting to get their land back from PG&E and water rights. There was just a lot of lot of activity going on you know, and I was fortunate that I had a vehicle. It was an old 1960’s Volkswagen bus. It could carry a lot of folks and you know, just haul stuff around so you know, long as we had had money, we moved around.

00:12:44 Tony Gonzales

Indeed, you know, and this is one of the very reasons why we do invite you to come on KPFA and in this particular show Across Indian Land tonight, Friday night. And it's a part of La Onda Bajita, where a lot of us and particular Chicanos across the southwest and worldwide are tuning in. You know about the history, about the Alcatraz occupation that started about 54 years ago…and the significance for example you are reporting now as an elder—you were…much younger back then 54 years [ago].

As a Chicano Indigenous Indian man that you were you know you were part of that intertribal engagement and set the tone and built that relationship with Richard Oakes. [Richard was] a Mohawk man from the East Coast here in the Bay Area, along with many other Indians from the relocation program. So, it became a ripe moment, if you will, in time with people and the events, the turmoil across the country, the takeover.

And there's some unfinished business as we're coming close to the [end of our interview] Eloy.

There's some unfinished business that was demanded even back then. And people and the government said that they were going to pursue and do as such as [build a] Museum Center, a Cultural Center, you know, different structures on [Alcatraz]. So please take us there to that unfinished business and what needs to be done…I'd like you to mention the committee you're working with too. [Tell us] what is it [that] want from The National Park Service with regard to Alcatraz, that goes all the way back to the occupation.

00:14:36 Eloy Martinez

OK, let me quickly read off of the people that are on the committee, and these are both these are these are mostly the veterans and if not the veterans or the children of the veterans or they were children on Alcatraz also: Geneva Seaboy, Johnny Bearcub Stiffarm, David Leach, William Ryan, Von Oaks, Elijah Oaks, Mignon Galli, Benayshe Nordwell (Adam Nordwell's daughter), Chris Longoria, Andrea Longoria, Victoria Gimmel, Lori Bossman (retired Ranger), Angela Miller Al Miller’s daughter, Eloy (myself). So, there's a total of 14 that I can remember off hand that that were started from right from the beginning. And when we started, you know, John White Fox also was one of the first original members, and you know, he was also a Wounded Knee Veteran.

[John White Fox] was on Alcatraz for a long time. He was he was actually the first “Fastrak” guy in California. He worked for Caltrans, and he worked at the [bridge] toll booths. He’d call me up and say “Eloy I am at number seven. You know, so I got Fastrak for as long as he was [working at the toll booth] you know, all the [Indigenous People] in the area [passed over the bridge without having to pay toll]. That's what he used to call it [all Indigenous People] “in the area, got free passage” for a long time at gate number seven.

Yeah. But anyway, he…got me more involved in 1996 because they weren't mentioning Indians of All Tribes party anymore on the island. You know, they weren't talking about it, and they wouldn't even talk to us for a long time. In 2006, we finally got them to start recording all the volunteers that all the all the veterans that were on the island and that was kind of like a little process started. Since then, we started in we painted the water tower, and everybody that had painted the water tower was somebody that was there originally or the children or grandchildren. All that stuff that's been put back, all the paintings—we call them political statements. We don't call it graffiti because they were political statements. That has all been put back by the native people and people that were indigenous people on the island that did it originally.

And the combination and most of the opinions was done for the 50th anniversary, which in 2013 we started talking about needing a first Indian of All Tribes Day out there. We finally got one in 2016. The first one we didn't get it on the original date [so] we took whatever date they would give us just to get our foot in the door. We ended up doing it in February, the first one, but that was that was the start.

So, from that way we progressed, you know we've managed to establish a good relationship with the with the Park Department, National Park Service and right now we are in the process of getting a, well they call it a “temporary permanent exhibit room”. You know that little cubby hole that they had back there for a long time? [where they had the] theaters where they showed the revolvers, [and films] before, that's now is going to be the exhibit room. It's going to be a bigger room. It's probably about 2500 square feet that we're getting and…it's all that's already in the process right now. They're working on it, and I think probably, you know, maybe around November…of this year, maybe it'll be all done, and you know…that's just for that little exhibit room for…you know, we can have a meeting room, prayers, dances, whatever you know.

But you know what we originally wanted was the Cultural Center plus the museum. Now the museum and a permanent Cultural Center might be a combination of the two together, I don't know, but they're promising to give it to us in four years. So, I just think that, you know, myself that and the committee that we should, maybe write letters and ask the public to write letters in support of that…

00:18:38 Tony Gonzales

Well, when did they say in four years when?

00:18:41 Eloy Martinez

They're saying that just recently. We had a meeting here with one of the with one of the head of the interpretive service…And we did it over at Crystal Wahpepa’s restaurant, being a neutral place. So anyway, they're going to do it…Well, we want to make sure that it doesn’t go any further than four years, cause right now they're going to redo that whole doc and a whole bunch of other stuff they're doing…

You know, I went to an envisioning program in 2016 and during that whole process they determined they would do two scenes on the island. One was in prison because that was what it was and the other would be the occupation, because that hadn't happened to anyplace else. So, they're not talking as much about that, you know, the Fort and all these other things, they're bringing more attention to the Occupation now.

So now one of our allies has moved up from the park up into another area where she'll be able to help us a whole lot more. And I can't say her name because it hasn't happened yet. I just found out about it. But it's good news for us because now she could do a lot more, you know. And this same committees, all those people that I gave the names that on that committee are the ones that are responsible for bringing Deb Haaland to the island for, I think it was the 53rd Occupation [Anniversary].

Anyway, Julian Neistat, who was another local kid from the Bay Area, grew up in the Intertribal Friendship House, you know, learned how to dance at Intertribal Friendship House and went on, you know, and now he's actually one of the kids that went and met with the Pope up there and in Rome. His father is from Canada—and his father was part of that Canadian garbage, you know, [discovering] all the [Indigenous] kids up there [who died in Boardings Schools]. He was part of that [discovery].

Any rate…he went to Columbia University and he wrote for Huffington Post and with And now he's in in got his own little data processing and they're like a think tank with all Indian kids, which is pretty awesome. But anyway, he wrote the letter to Deb Helen because he's the one that brought her name up to Joe Biden's crew. Because he had met her and he knew her. So that's how we got Deb Halland…just by knowing people that we've known for years that have been and helped us out.

So he's the one that wrote a letter to get her down here for us and we've established that relationship with her you know, and I talked to her personally and I she asked me what things that you should we think we should do. And I said, “well, we should have…the things that were promised on Alcatraz, you know, we should have freedom for Leonard Peltier, and we should have recognition for the Ohlone Tribe and all the other tribes that have had no federal recognition. You know, I didn't get to say a whole lot…but I got that in anyway. She was, you know, real supportive. I'm hoping that maybe this year would be the day that they free Leonard Peltier also. But the whole thing is, going back to the cultural thing is, I just want people to write letters of support, not criticize them…just write letters of support at this point.

Right now, I have the people that took us over on the boats. Mary Crowley, I have her and I have Brooke Towns and they were both skippers on the boats that took us over in 1969. They're working on getting, you know, on a little allies grouped together for us. [Also, the] letters should go to National Park, I would just enter the National Park tension National Park Service or Golden Gate National is Golden Gate National Park…or Alcatraz. You know, you could send them to Alcatraz. Yeah, but I would…if you if you look it up on the [internet] you could e-mail, we could just send them a letter you could. It's just really easy just to e-mail it, you know, and we're even thinking about trying to get an e-mail petition. The kids are talking about doing that. I don't know how to do that. That would be something they do to…garner enough support [for] that. It will be really hard for them to ignore it…and do it in a good way, because you know you, the Park Service is saying that they like people to work, you know they how they say “go up through the ranks” …So a lot of people make that mistake.

But you know, it was good about the Park Service. All the people that I've met over the years had been interns when I started going out there you know. So, I they kind of grew up around me and I mean they...a lot of them have already retired, you know.

00:23:43 Tony Gonzales

And you know, it's been happening so long. They're retiring themselves, you know, so that's a good a good long line of support, you know, for the effort. So, I would suggest that the committee start a petition, a petition on the Internet for that to happen, Eloy. So any closing words Eloy, to our brothers, sisters, low riding out there in La Onda and Across Indian Land?

00:24:11 Eloy Martinez

Brothers, stay strong, you know, things can change. To all the low riders, keep low riding man, because that's where we came from. You know that a statement they can't take away from us at all. You know, that's just like education. You know, we get education they can't take it from you.

00:24:32 Tony Gonzales

Alrighty, Martinez and you're a biker yourself, so all the bikers out there also in support of these efforts to make the change, it's possible there with the National Park Service getting that getting letters to the National Park Service in general about Alcatraz to meet their commitments, and support of the Cultural Center and the museum or interpretive type center there at Alcatraz Island. Eloy Martinez thank you very much.

00:25:03 Tony Gonzales

We'll be talking to you again…I want to thank Eloy Martinez for his insights, for his advocacy, continued work and commitment for Alcatraz Island for those promises that were made at Culture Center and a museum or interpretive center, my relatives. And also called the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, call them at 4155614700 my relatives and emphasize to them that unfinished business, no more broken promises. A Cultural center and an interpretive center or a museum for Alcatraz Island. So, we can all make that circle complete from its first occupation back in November of 1969 my relatives.

Also, just a quick report where we're under a lot of rain recently and there's a lot of activities, events still going on. The Mexica New Year which begins today, the 10th, 11th, and the 12th on through Sunday there, that's still a go. And in San Francisco, the Mexica New Year on Valencia St. from 10:00 to 5:00, o'clock my relatives, that's still a go. If there's rain in San Francisco for Mexica New Year it will be indoors there, inside the San Francisco City College and my relatives. And finally don't forget Leonard Peltier, still in prison 48 years now. My relatives go to his website at and call the White House and leave a message there at 2024561111 {and ask] the President to release Leanard Peltier with Executive clemency or a Covid-19 release or something like that but to do it immediately. That’s it my relatives this is Tony Gonzales, we’ll see you once again, Across Indian Land.


Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page