5 Facts About Native American Activist Richard Oakes

Celebration Google Doodle, YouTube
Celebration Google Doodle, YouTube

Growing up on the Mohawk reservation in Akwesasne on the New York and Canada border, Richard Oakes learned from a young age about the respect his Native American people were due. When he was old enough to do something about it, he became a key figure in the American Indian rights movement—chiefly by occupying the dormant Alcatraz Prison. Take a look at five things you might not know about Oakes and his tragically brief struggle to reclaim his culture.


Born in 1942, Oakes moved to San Francisco in his late 20s to attend San Francisco State University. As a student, he found that the lethargic curriculum barely acknowledged the contribution Native Americans had made. Working with faculty, he helped develop and introduce one of the first Native American Studies departments in the country. Oakes and his fellow students also encouraged Native American elders from the community to come teach classes.


At SFSU, Oakes seemed to have found his calling in rallying both students and members of the Native American community. In order to draw attention to the need for further education and awareness of their forgotten history, Oakes and several others traveled to Alcatraz Island in November 1969 to symbolically claim it as Indian land.


While it was initially intended to be a brief pronouncement, Oakes realized that the site of the dormant federal prison could actually support a long-term occupation. Students from UCLA helped make up the 100 or so American Indians who took up residence on the island. Once people were settled in, an elected council was put in place, and occupants took on a variety of jobs inside the abandoned prison facility: cooking, sanitation, teaching, housing, and day care. Oakes, a charismatic leader, was appointed the chief, or mayor, of the occupation, and demanded the deed to the island. Federal authorities wouldn’t relent: The occupation ended in 1971 after law enforcement ushered the remaining occupants off the land. (Oakes, whose 13-year-old stepdaughter had died there after she fell down the stairs in 1970, had already left.)


After leaving Alcatraz, Oakes joined other American Indians in their struggle for equality. Aligning himself with the Pit River Tribe in California, he opposed utility companies that had been claiming their land for their own purposes. Oakes was victimized by tear gas and billy clubs. When he returned to San Francisco, he was involved in a bar fight that left him hospitalized.


Oakes undoubtedly had decades of activism and education ahead of him, but he never had the opportunity to experience them. On September 20, 1972, Oakes got into a confrontation with Michael Morgan, a YMCA employee who Oakes had alleged was mistreating the young Native American attendees Morgan was responsible for monitoring. During the argument, Morgan drew a firearm and shot Oakes, killing him. A jury later decided Morgan had been acting in self-defense. He was acquitted.

Despite the tragic end to his life, Richard Oakes accomplished a great deal on behalf of Native Americans. While he was unsuccessful in seizing Alcatraz, the occupation brought new attention to the cause: Hundreds of other protests were staged, and then-President Richard Nixon returned 48,000 acres of land to the Taos Indians. Today, the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center at San Francisco State University is dedicated to Oakes, who devoted his life to promoting the idea that Native Americans are in control of their own destiny.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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A Short, Sweet History of Candy Corn

Love it or hate it, candy corn is here to stay.
Love it or hate it, candy corn is here to stay.
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Depending on which survey you happen to be looking at, candy corn is either the best or the worst Halloween candy ever created. If that proves anything, it’s that the tricolor treat is extremely polarizing. But whether you consider candy corn a confectionery abomination or the sweetest part of the spooky season, you can’t deny that it’s an integral part of the holiday—and it’s been around for nearly 150 years.

On this episode of Food History, Mental Floss’s Justin Dodd is tracing candy corn’s long, storied existence all the way back to the 1880s, when confectioner George Renninger started molding buttercream into different shapes—including corn kernels, which he tossed at actual chickens to see if it would fool them. His white-, orange-, and yellow-striped snack eventually caught the attention of Goelitz Confectionery Company (now Jelly Belly), which started mass-producing what was then sometimes called “chicken feed” rather than “candy corn.”

But what exactly is candy corn? Why do we associate it with Halloween? And will it ever disappear? Find answers to these questions and more in the video below.

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