Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall (1929- ), a termite exterminator, claimed Italy for the Chippewa Indians in 1973 using the Vatican’s Doctrine of Discovery:
What right had Columbus to discover America when it was already inhabited for thousands of years? The same right that I have to come now to Italy and claim to have discovered your country.
Later he went to see the pope. When the pope held out his hand to be kissed, Nordwall held out his hand to be kissed! People were shocked but the pope laughed it off and shook his hand.
Nordwall is a master of political theatre, what he calls serious joke medicine.
After they took over Alcatraz and claimed it by right of discovery, they read out Nordwall’s “Alcatraz Proclamation to the Great White Father and his People”. It offered to buy the island for $24 in glass beads and red cloth – the same price whites paid for the much larger island of Manhattan and more than twice the going price whites were paying for Indian land in California.
The Proclamation offered a place for whites on the island:
We will give to the inhabitants of this island a portion of the land of their own to be held in trust … by the Bureau of Caucasian Affairs … in perpetuity – for as long as the sun shall rise and the rivers go down in the sea. We will further guide the inhabitants in the proper way of living. We will offer them our religion, our education, our way of life – ways in order to help them achieve our level of civilization and thus raise them and all their white brothers up from their savage and unhappy state.
They held the island for 19 months. Over 10,000 Indians came. It was the beginning of the Red Power movement. By the time they lost the island President Nixon had ended the government’s Termination policy, which would have shut down all Indian reservations. Indians would have lost what little land they had left.
To this day Indians celebrate Unthanksgiving Day on Alcatraz.
As you might imagine, Nordwall had a thick FBI file.
In early 1970s the government fined Nordwall’s termite extermination business and audited his taxes. It destroyed his suburban, middle-class life. He and his wife moved to her Paiute-Shoshone reservation near Fallon, Nevada.
In 1987 he was arrested for selling eagle feathers as part of the headdresses he made. Even though white ranchers killed eagles, the government only went after Indians. He faced up to six years in prison but in the end was fined $15,000.
One time he made a totem pole for Livermore, California. But when they put it up, they left out the bottom part. He asked them to restore it but they refused. So he cursed their sewers! Two weeks the sewers started backing up and they gave in.