Wilma Mankiller came from a large family that spent many years on the family farm in Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, a poor local economy made the Mankiller family an easy target for the Bureau of Indian Affairs recolocation program of the 1950s. In 1959 the family moved to San Francisco.
Mankiller decided to leave her parents and go to live with her maternal grandmother, Pearl Sitton, on a family ranch in land from San Francisco. The year she spent there restored her confidence and after returning to the Bay Area, she got increasingly involved with the world of the San Francisco indian center.
There was something at the Center for everyone, It was a safe place to go, even if we only wanted to hang out
When a group of Native Americans occupied Alcatraz Island in November 1969, in protest of U.S Government policies, which had,for hundred of years, deprived them of their lands, Mankiller participated in her first major political action.
It change me forever. It was on Alcatraz... where at long last some Native Americans. including me, truly began to regain our balance
Soon after my Native Americans brothers and sisters joined the occupation of Alcatraz Island in late 1969, I made plans to visit the island. The morning I made the short jorney to Alcatraz, my heart and mind made a quantum leap forward.
This was not the first relationship between indigenous people and Alcatraz. Long before arrived, Ohlones and other indigenous people of the coast rested and got their bearings on Alcatraz island.