Richard Oakes is a native American activist who came into fame after being honored by Google Doodle that portrayed him alongside places crucial to his life. The doodle did feature on the Mohawk Indian reservation in Akwesasne where Oakes was born. It was his tireless work and constant campaigning for the rights of the Native Americans that got him the honored.
For many years now, Oakes has been a member of the Mohawk tribe and comes from the origins of what is now Upstate New York. He first established one of first Native American studies program in San Francisco when he was only 18. However, the young man was shot down and his life came to an end when he was only 30. Let us now get to know more about Richard Oakes.
Caption: The legendary activist Richard Oakes.
Richard Oakes: Early Life and Education, and Personal Life
Richard Oakes was born on the 22nd of May in 1942 in Akwesasne, New York. Whilst at New York, he spent a lot of time fishing and planting crops. However, his traditional way of life came to an end after the construction of St Lawrence Seaway. This sudden change meant that he had to begin working at a steel company.
While working on the Newport, Rhode Island Bridge, Richard met an English-Italian woman and had a son with her in 1968. Later he split up with his wife and went to San Francisco to enroll in a University.
Caption: Richard Oakes honored by Google on his 75th Birthday.
It was his passion for empowerment through education that led him to create which was probably the first Native American Studies in the USA. He came up with a framework for the course and kept encouraging all the Native Americans to get educated.
Richard Oakes: Career
Oakes was still continuing to rally around for the social justice in his community. He has even spent time in federal prison but was later declared surplus property in 1964. Next, he got married to Annie whose group wanted the government to return all out-of-use federal lands to Natives.
Caption: Occupation leader Richard Oakes with a young child.
While serving time at the prison he realized that the facility could actually support a long-term occupation. Students from UCLA helped him make up an entire Indian American community who took up residence on the island. After settling in at the island, they set up an electoral council. Then the occupants took on varieties of jobs inside the prison facility like cooking, teaching, sanitation, etc.
Oakes was a leader of the community and was the mayor or the occupation. However, federal authorities did not agree to their terms and the occupation ended in 1971.
Richard Oakes: Death
Richard was making waves across the country and had a lot to offer to the suppressed. However, despite having a lot of years ahead he never got to experience the outcome of his dedication. On the 20th of September 1972, Oakes got into a confrontation with the YMGA employee Michael Morgan. Oakes alleged him of mistreating young Native American attendees. During the argument, Michael drew a firearm and shot Oakes. Later, the jury defended Morgan’s actions and termed it “an act of self-defense”.
Oakes did have a tragic end to his life. However, he was able to start a movement and accomplish a lot to help the Native American community grow. Today, there is a Richard Oakes Multicultural Center at San Francisco University that serves as a reminder to the man who devoted his life for the good of the Native Americans.