Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jim Fortier's Alcatraz Is Not an Island

Blogging today---not about books---but about a documentary that ought to be in middle school and high school libraries. It is called Alcatraz Is Not an Island. Directed by Jim Fortier (Metis and Ojibwe), the film is about American Indian activism in the late 60s. Fortier focuses on the November 1969 occupation of Alcatraz by a group of American Indians.

I show the film each semester to students in my section of Intro to American Indian Studies. Prior to this, they had never heard of this incident. How many of you, readers of this blog, know about that takeover? It lasted 19 months and included negotiations with the Nixon administration. Films like this will go a long way to dispel stereotypical ideas about who Native peoples are.

PBS broadcast the film a few years ago and still has their website up: Alcatraz Is Not an Island. You can get a copy from Berkeley Media.

In addition to the film, get Troy Johnson's books about the takeover. They are filled with photographs taken during the occupation. Some of the photos are at Johnson's website. You can get one of his books, You Are On Indian Land! Alcatraz Island, from Oyate.

Fortier was on our campus (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) last week. He put together a montage of several of his films. Green Green Water, in particular, caught my eye. It is about hydroelectric power and its effects on First Nations people in Canada.

I'm also looking forward to the completion of his current project, Playing Pasttime, which is about All-Indian Fast-Pitch Softball. My colleague and friend, LeAnne Howe, is working with Jim on this documentary.

There's information about him on the NMAI website but spend time on his own webpages, learning about all his projects: Turtle Island Productions. Fortier's work is important, and I highly recommend it.


k8 said...

I knew about it, but I'm not sure where I learned about it. I'm pretty sure it wasn't in school (k-12, undergrad, or grad). I suspect I learned about it either through something on tv, or through something I randomly read - I say 'randomly' because I'm notorious for reading anything I come across, regardless of genre, subject, etc. I've even been known to randomly pull an encyclopedia off of a shelf and start browsing.

Thanks for the heads up about the film, though! I'll have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this information. I loved reading about all of this. My sister recently moved to San Fran and I cannot wait to go and visit her so that I can take the tour of Alcatraz. I would love to watch this you know where I might find it?

Tasha P. from Mahomet