Alcatraz Island [CA]
Alcatraz Island presents the site of the first West Coast lighthouse and fort, built 1853; the site of a former major federal prison (1934-1963); and the history of the island's 18-month occupation by Native American rights activists (1969-1971). Alcatraz is now a national bird sanctuary. During its prison years, Alcatraz hosted difficult inmates from prisons around the nation, perpetrators of predatory crimes, and Native American prisoners. The Native American occupation began as a symbolic repossessing of ancestral land. Demands for a university, cultural center, and museum were never met. However, the occupation led to greater national recognition of Native American interests.
The site offers a brief orientation, a film on the Native American occupation, other films, exhibits, and an audio tour of the cellhouse's penitentiary period. Evening visits offer guided tours and history narration while aboard the ferry. Day trips lean toward a self-guided experience, while evening trips offer more guided opportunities. The cellhouse audio tour is available in English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. Videos are captioned, a shuttle can transport visitors otherwise unable to reach the cellhouse, and transcriptions of the audio tour are available. The National Park Service recommends purchasing ferry tickets at least one week in advance. The website offers an extensive virtual exhibit.