Indian Country lost a legend this month with the passing of Billy Frank Jr. (1930-2014). Arrested for fishing on more than 50 occasions during his life time, Frank stood firmly for Civil Rights. A man with clear vision and staunch determination, Frank walked with humility, strength and extraordinary kindness.
During the “fish wars” of the 1960s and 70s, and first when he was just 14 years old, Frank repeatedly reminded authorities that in the 1850s his tribe ceded two million acres of land in exchange for the right to fish the rivers of Washington State. In 1974, Judge G.H. Boldt ruled with startling and historic force that Frank and the tribe were correct – that Indian people had a right not only to fish for salmon, but that they should become co-managers of the fisheries, with the state. The Supreme Court’s support of that ruling transformed fishing in the Northwest Coast.
I am so glad that Billy Frank is featured in our Native American Voices gallery. Stop by and listen – you can find him on the tower.
Read his New York Times obituary here: