UMass Boston News

A Journey to Freedom: Richard Oakes and a History of Red Power

Alcatraz Takeover

On April 25, from 2-3:15 pm, Assistant Professor Kent Blansett, chair of the American Indian Studies Dept. at University of Minnesota - Morris, will deliver a presentation from his current research. The life of Richard Oakes, a St. Regis Mohawk, is crucial to any discourse on contemporary American Indian history. Oakes helped organize the highly publicized Alcatraz, Fort Lawton, and Pit River "takeovers." Oakes established the first wave of organizational leadership that defines the Red Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His assassination in 1972 galvanized the Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C., and unified a movement that eventually ushered in the era of self-determination in the mid-1970s. This presentation will explore the life of Native activist Richard Oakes and will illustrate how his actions reflected a unique voice of Indigenous leadership within the Red Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s. From a young age and throughout his short life, Oakes struggled to ignite a generation who fought to maintain their independent and sovereign status as Native peoples.


Kent Blansett is a descendant of five tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Potawatomi. He is an Assistant Professor of History and American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Morris, where he also serves as Chair of the American Indian Studies Department. Dr. Blansett earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of New Mexico, having graduated with distinction. He is a past recipient of the prestigious Andrew F. Mellon Dissertation Fellowship and his latest manuscript is entitled A Journey to Freedom: The Life of Richard Oakes, 1942-1972. Once published, this will be the first biography of Akwesasne Mohawk leader and activist Richard Oakes who was instrumental in the Indians of All Tribes takeover of Alcatraz Island. His book is under consideration with Yale University Press for their prestigious Henry Roe Cloud Series on American Indians and Modernity. Dr. Blansett's research explores two key theoretical concepts within Red Power, the advent of what he terms as “Indian Cities” and Intertribalism. His research appears in several critical anthologies and academic journals. In 2011 the University of Nevada Press published his most recent work entitled “San Francisco, Red Power, and the Emergence of an Indian City,” in the anthology City Dreams, Country Schemes: Community and Identity in the American West. His other articles include, “Intertribalism in the Ozarks, 1800-1865,” published in the journal American Indian Quarterly. Dr. Blansett is finishing work on three more essays “Expressions of Red Power: Native Music and Theater, 1960-Present,” "The Modern West from Atomic to Red Power Comics," and "When the Stars Fell from the Sky: The Cherokee Nation and the Civil War." Most recently, Blansett was awarded the Katrin H. Lamon Fellowship with the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


For more information, please contact Dr. Josh Reid, Director of the Native American & Indigenous Studies program at UMass Boston.

For disability-related accommodations, including dietary accommodations, please visit www.ada.umb.edu two weeks prior to the event.