Fort Lawton Takeover: The Aftermath (Exhibit)


The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was brought to nearly every corner of the United States and rocked virtually every level of government. The City of Seattle was not immune to these events. This movement was taken up by minority communities and marginalized peoples from all walks of life, including American Indians, for which it became known as the Red Power Movement. Central to the goal of this movement was not only the recognition of the rights of people, but a chance to rectify longstanding issues by meeting the needs of those historically oppressed. Through the passage of landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the mobilization of citizens through political demonstration, the accomplishments of this movement and its actors completely changed the relational landscape between the dominant society and those of the historical "Other" in the aftermath of this era.

In 1970, the American Indian population of Seattle felt it necessary to address the issues most pressing to them. Led by Bob Satiacum, Bernie Whitebear, and a number of other local Indian leaders, American Indian activists and their allies occupied parts of the federally owned property known as Fort Lawton in the Magnolia Neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The initial occupation occurred on March 8, 1970, with subsequent actions escalating the conflict between Indians and the federal and city officials. Behind this event was a long history of neglect, inequality, and racism. The takeover of Fort Lawton was not only an attempt to right the injustices the American Indian community in Seattle had endured, but an attempt to force the authorities of the dominant culture to acknowledge the uncommon relationship shared between the federal government and Indian Peoples--the federal trust responsibility as established by the treaties made with Indians. Since this event has taken place, has the relationship between Indians and the non-Indian residents of Seattle changed? Have the disparities between the Indian and non-Indian populations equalized? What is the perception of the racial landscape, both historically and in current times? And how do American Indians feel about the effects of the Fort Lawton Takeover in its aftermath? This project seeks to answer these questions.

This exhibit page explores several major areas to investigate the aftermath of the Fort Lawton Takeover. Each section is meant to stand independently of another, but paints a full picture by describing the event, the results of the takeover, and how these items were and continue to be shaped by historical context. The hope is that through this investigation, visitors to this exhibit will get a feel for the perception of this event by American Indians who have lived through its impacts and by the non-Indian public that make up the majority of the population of Seattle.



This exhibit is divded into several sections, each located on the lefthand side of this page. These sections describe various aspects of the Fort Lawton Takeover, the press coverage of the event, later developments around the location, and material describing how this event has affected the questions posed.

The exhibit is composed of individually collected items that can be viewed as part of this presentation or on their own.

The overhead menu items provide a meta prospective on this project itself.


Kyle Pittman