Alcatraz Is Not An Island

Best Documentary Feature – American Indian Film Festival, San Francisco (1999)
Sundance Film Festival (2001)
National PBS Premiere (2002)
Emmy Award – Best Directing “Alcatraz Is Not An Island” (2002)

Directed By James M. Fortier (Ojibway)
Produced By Jon Plutte
Executive Producer Millie Ketcheshawno (Mvskoke)
Associate Producer/Historical Consultant Dr. Troy Johnson
Edited by Mike Yearling


For thousands of Native Americans, the infamous Alcatraz is not an island, it is an inspiration. After generations of oppression, relocation and assimilation, a small group of Native American students from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State along with Urban Indians from the Bay Area began the occupation of Alcatraz Island in November, 1969. They were eventually joined by thousands of Native Americans, retaking Indian land for the first time since the 1880s. Alcatraz Is Not An Island is the story of how this historic event altered U.S. Government Indian policy and programs, and how it changed the way many Native Americans viewed themselves, their culture, and their sovereign rights. The story of the occupation of Alcatraz is as complex and rich as the history of Native Americans. This documentary examines the personal sacrifices, tragedies, social battles, and political injustices many Native Americans experienced under the United States Government policies of assimilation, termination, and relocation – all eventually leading to Alcatraz. Beginning with the struggle to establish American Indian Studies programs at Bay Area universities, the occupation of Alcatraz quickly became the springboard for the Red Power movement of the 1970s, which has been called the lost chapter of the Civil Rights era. After 30 years, Alcatraz Is Not An Island provides the first in-depth look at the history, politics, personalities, and cultural reawakening behind this historic event, which sparked a new era of Native American political empowerment and cultural renaissance.

Due to music licensing limitations for one song in the film (“Coyote Dance” by the late Choctaw composer Jim Wilson), AINAI is effectively “out of print” and no longer in distribution. We are allowed to sell our remaining original batch of DVDs for home video personal use here . Education institutions should contact me at for more information or click  purchase an institutional copy