On this dayJan 03, 1895

Nineteen Hopi Leaders Imprisoned in Alcatraz

Image | History.com

On January 3, 1895, nineteen leaders from the Hopi tribe were imprisoned on Alcatraz Island, a prison in the San Francisco Bay, on charges of sedition for opposing the U.S. government's program of forced education and assimilation.

In the late 1800s, the United States government sought to “Americanize” Native American children by forcing them into white-run assimilationist schools, often far from their homes and families. In 1887, the government established Keams Canyon Boarding School in modern-day Arizona and pressured Native American parents from the Hopi tribe to enroll their children. Hopi families that complied with the government's order and sent their children to school were deemed “Friendlies,” while those who refused were branded “Hostiles.” When most parents refused to part with their children voluntarily, the government resorted to force, sending soldiers to round up children and send them to Keams Canyon.

At the same time, tensions were rising regarding the limited land that the government had allotted to Native American communities. In October 1894, fifty Hopi returned to plant on land that had traditionally belonged to their tribe. The U.S. government, claiming to act in defense of the rights of Friendlies, responded by ordering troops to arrest the Hopi leaders. Justifying the order for military involvement, one government official wrote that “[t]he Friendlies must be protected in their rights and encouraged to continue in the Washington way.”

After the January 1895 arrests, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “[n]ineteen murderous-looking Apache Indians” had been imprisoned at Alcatraz, “because they would not let their children go to school.” The paper added that they “have not hardship aside from the fact that they have been rudely snatched from the bosom of their families and are prisoners and prisoners they shall stay until they have learned to appreciate the advantage of education.” The Hopi leaders were imprisoned in the wooden cells of Alcatraz for nearly one year.

About EJI

The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality.

Learn more

About this website

Until we confront our history of racial injustice and its legacy, we cannot overcome the racial bias that exists today.

Learn more