Historic Alcatraz Indian Flag to be Auctioned by PBA Galleries of San Francisco

On January 24th, 2008, nearly three decades after it flew over the Indian-occupied island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, the flag that hung from the prison guard tower will once again be available for public viewing when sold at auction by PBA Galleries.

alcatraz-flag.jpgDesigned by Lulie Nall, a Penobscot Indian who was living in the Bay Area, the flag became a symbol of the year and a half occupation that galvanized the American Indian Movement and sent shock waves through the establishment. The flag is pictured in an article on the occupation in the San Francisco Chronicle of January 8th, 1970, with the caption “An Indian Flag Flew from an Alcatraz Guard Tower. A brave symbol, but below it the occupiers’ unity crumbled.”

The occupation of Alcatraz by Indian students and urban Indians on November 9, 1969, came at the end of a tumultuous decade. It was at first envisioned as a brief event to draw attention to the plight of Native Americans, but soon there were demands for the deed to the island, and plans for an Indian university, cultural center and museum among the cell blocks. The original one hundred or so occupiers soon left, to be replaced by other Indians from across the country. Although the demands with regard to Alcatraz were denied, the occupation focused the nation’s attention on the American Indian Movement and its goals. During the period the occupiers were on Alcatraz Island, President Nixon returned Blue Lake and 48,000 acres of land to the Taos Indians. Occupied lands near Davis, California would become home to a Native American university. And the occupation of Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington, D.C. would lead to the hiring of Native Americans to work in the federal agency that had such a great effect on their lives. As noted on the website of the National Park Service, “Alcatraz may have been lost, but the occupation gave birth to a political movement which continues to today.” The symbol of Alcatraz also continues to this day, and the island in San Francisco Bay is the starting point for the 30th Anniversary Longest Walk, sponsored by the American Indian Movement, crossing the nation to Washington, D.C., to promote harmony with the Earth.

Lulie V. Nall, creator of the flag, was a longtime activist, not only within Native American movements, but in the quest for peace and harmony that dominated the 1960s. The flag became the axis of her efforts, and she made many attempts to publicize it. She christened it Old Glory’s Helper Flag, since Old Glory was in need of assistance. In her words, “Red, represents the American Indian who shares his tepee with fifty state governments. Yellow, Black and Brown people are represented in the fields they help toil and join. White, not only represents the white man and his dexterity by planning our great land but the lightness of all hearts when complexion is disregarded in a utopia USA…” She created a game employing the flag as a board, with cards using the flag design, and also designed stationery and cards using the flag.

alcatraz-flag-at-mast.jpgIncluded in the archive is much correspondence between her and the Kessler Sales Corporation, concerning her attempts to patent and market her “invention”; copies of letters from her to such notables as Marlon Brando and James Hoffa, magazine publishers, and others; the paper pattern for the flag; five color snapshots of her and others raising the flag on Alcatraz; an 8×10 glossy photograph of the flag flying from the guardhouse, as published in the San Francisco Chronicle, and related material.

Bruce MacMakin, senior vice president at PBA Galleries of San Francisco remarks, “We’re honored to be representing an historic relic of such great social and cultural significance. The flag is a key symbol of the signature moment of the American Indian Movement in the 20th century, the effects of which are still felt to this day. In this strong market for rare historic items, the sale of this beacon of freedom is sure to be received with much excitement and anticipation. Although one cannot underestimate the social and monetary value of such significant pieces of Americana, we expect the flag and accompanying archive to bring between $100,000 and $150,000.” The flag has been kept in Lulie Nall’s family and is being consigned by the stepson of her nephew.

Other lots in the sale may be viewed at the PBA Galleries website, www.pbagalleries.com .

About PBA Galleries
PBA Galleries is the only specialist auction house in the West devoted to rare books, manuscripts, and maps. Focused primarily on personal collections and exceptional books, recent offerings have included the sale of maps and atlases from the Ernst W. Gerber collection; the library of Ford Mitchell: Early Americana, Texas & the West; John Dunlap’s collection from the estate of William Randolph Hearst; and many more. PBA Galleries provides clients the benefits of its staff of appraisers, online and printed catalogues, and biweekly gallery auctions where clients can bid in person, email, and in real time from their computer. We welcome you to follow the auction and bid in real time by clicking on the Real Time Bidder button at the PBA Galleries website. Bidders will have to register before the auction. Please contact [email protected] for more information.
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