Please join Keynote Speaker, Kent Blansett, followed by a roundtable (panel discussion) with Doug George-Kanentiio and Tom Porter, and conclude with a Q&A session.
Richard Oakes was a natural born leader whom people followed seemingly on instinct. Thus when he dove into the icy San Francisco Bay in the fall of 1969 on his way to Alcatraz Island, he knew others would have his back. Kent Blansett tells Richard Oakes’ story in wonderful detail in A Journey to Freedom: Richard Oakes, Alcatraz, and the Red Power Movement. Blansett argues that by understanding Oakes’ life and his movement across the United States in the 1960s, we can better understand the origins of the Red Power movement. Prior to landing in San Francisco, Richard Oakes lived in the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, a borderland region between Canada and the United States. From there he worked with other Mohawks in the ironwork trade, constructing the New York City skyline, and became a legendary figure in the Indian Cities of Brooklyn and Seattle. Although both his time on Alcatraz and his life ended in tragedy, Oakes’ legacy is lasting and undeniable, as Native people staged fish-ins and occupations across North America based on his inspiring leadership. As Oakes himself put it, “Alcatraz was not an island, but an idea.”
Kent Blansett is a descendant of five Tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Potawatomi through his Blanket, Panther, and Smith family lines. With a proud Ozark Mountain heritage, Blansett grew up in the “other four corners” area of Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas. He is currently an associate professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is a founding member of the Native American Journalists Association and a co-founder of the Akwesasne Communications Society (Radio CKON). He is a writer for News From Indian Country. He is currently vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge.
Tom Porter-Sakokwanonkwas is an Akwesasne Mohawk elder, spiritual leader and author. He was raised within the traditional customs of the Mohawk people and is acknowledged as a traditional knowledge keeper. He is the author of And Grandma Said (Xlibris, 2008), one of the most profound books recounting his family's life as Mohawk traditionalists.
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