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Oregon exhibit delves into the shadowy, surprising history of Alcatraz

An Alcatraz exhibit in Pendleton, Ore., focuses on the prison and the 19-month occupation by Native Americans.

The 19-month Native American occupation of Alcatraz will be the focus of an upcoming exhibit on an Oregon Indian reservation.

Alcatraz: Life on the Rock,"  a touring exhibition, will be hosted by the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton for four months beginning Saturday.

The exhibit includes an actual cell from the prison and tales of the penitentiary's notorious residents, but “Strength: The Native American Indian Occupation” also addresses the takeover that lasted from Nov. 20, 1969, until June 11, 1971.

Through photographs and artifacts, guests will learn how and why Native Americans overtook the island in San Francisco Bay. The occupation ended when federal agents swarmed the island, removing the 15 remaining people.

The protest drew national attention to the plight of Native Americans, many of whom had moved from reservations to cities in often-futile attempts to escape poverty. It launched a new era of political activism among native peoples.

“Life on the Rock” will also feature a display of 25 photographs taken on March 21, 1963, the last day on which Alcatraz operated as a prison. The images were captured by photographer Leigh Weiner, who had been assigned to create a photo essay for Life magazine.

Tamástslikt Cultural Institute shares the history of  the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla peoples that have inhabited parts of the Pacific Northwest for more than 10,000 years.

In the early 1800s, they welcomed and assisted the exploratory expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Each summer, visitors can also tour the Living Culture Village, which features replicas of traditional and prehistoric structures.

Tamástslikt Cultural Institute is owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

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