The first book-length biography of Richard Oakes, a Red Power activist of the 1960s who was a leader in the Alcatraz takeover and the Indigenous rights movement
“A powerful contribution to our understanding of Native American sovereignty, community, human rights, and identity.”—Sarah Eppler Janda, American Historical Review
"The nonfiction complement to Tommy Orange’s best-selling novel There There. . . . An exemplary work that recovers an important period in modern California history and casts it in a new, richer light.”—Randall A. Lake, California History
A revealing portrait of Richard Oakes, the brilliant, charismatic Native American leader who was instrumental in the takeovers of Alcatraz, Fort Lawton, and Pit River and whose assassination in 1972 galvanized the Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C. The life of this pivotal Akwesasne Mohawk activist is explored in an important new biography based on extensive archival research and interviews with key activists and family members.
Historian Kent Blansett offers a transformative and new perspective on the Red Power movement of the turbulent 1960s and the dynamic figure who helped to organize and champion it, telling the full story of Oakes’s life, his fight for Native American self-determination, and his tragic, untimely death. This invaluable history chronicles the mid-twentieth-century rise of Intertribalism, Indian Cities, and a national political awakening that continues to shape Indigenous politics and activism to this day.
Kent Blansett, a Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Shawnee, and Potawatomi descendant, is associate professor of Indigenous studies and history at the University of Kansas.
“The book excels when examining the philosophy of a movement that often struggled with ethics and attempted to implement a theory that was never going to gain strong popular attraction”—Robert Wyss, The Journal of American History
“Writing from the heart, Kent Blansett demonstrates the sui generis leadership of Richard Oakes in the big picture of Native nationalism that rocked federal-Indian relations and captured public attention in the quest for sovereignty.”—Donald L. Fixico, author of Call for Change: The Medicine Way of American Indian History, Ethos, and Reality
"In this exhaustively researched and brilliant work, Kent Blansett centers the story on Mohawk leader Richard Oakes. A Journey to Freedom is a powerfully told and richly documented biography of one of Indian Country’s most important leaders and contributes to our understanding of the Red Power Movement, the occupation of Alcatraz Island, Native American activism in the twentieth century, and the urban Indian experience."—Amy Lonetree, author of Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums
"Kent Blansett’s deeply researched and well-told biography reveals the centrality of tribal nationalism in Intertribal organizing. Richard Oakes’s story frames a major rethinking of the entire history of the Red Power movement. Not to be missed!"—Philip J. Deloria, author of Playing Indian
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