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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

#053--November 19, 1999; FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: John Kroll
phone: 415/338-1665

SFSU to name new Multicultural Center for former student Richard Oakes, who led the 1969 Takeover of Alcatraz

Announcement comes at Conference marking event's 30th Anniversary

SAN FRANCISCO, November 19, 1999 ---A new multicultural center within San Francisco State University's Student Center will be named for Richard Oakes, who in 1969 led an occupation of Alcatraz Island, President Robert A. Corrigan announced today. The announcement came at a day-long conference examining 30 years of Native American activism and coinciding with the occupation's 30th anniversary, which began November 20, 1969.

Oakes was 27 and a student at SFSU when he led a group of 60 American Indians, some of whom were fellow SFSU students, who reclaimed the island in the name of Indians of all tribes. The takeover led to the creation of an American Indian Studies Department at the University. Oakes served as its temporary chair and helped to develop its initial curriculum. He died an untimely death at age 31.

"American Indian Studies is fulfilling the hopes and promises of its founders," President Corrigan told the conference. "On campus, it reaches out broadly, drawing many non-Indian students. Off campus, its strong service learning program brings students and faculty out into a wide range of Bay Area American Indian agencies.

"This is the kind of University we want and need to be-an active community force and partner."

The American Indian Studies program is housed in the College of Ethnic Studies, the first of its kind at any American university.

The Richard Oakes Multicultural Student Center, a 600-square-foot oval room within the Cesar Chavez Student Center, will open in September 2000. The programs that take place in it will be developed with SFSU's College of Ethnic Studies and student organizations to increase appreciation of diversity.

Besides Oakes, several other SFSU students helped lead the Alcatraz takeover, conference organizers noted. They included Allen Miller, Ron Lickers, Mickey Gemmill (a conference speaker), and Gerald Sam.

"The occupation symbolized that American Indians were still very much a part of society. And today, American Indians in urban communities still have a problem with being visible to the larger community. People think that all Indians live on reservations. But about 50 percent of American Indians live in urban communities," said Angela Gonzalez, a conference organizer and member of the department.


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