billy frank jr., tribal fishing activist, dies

Billy Frank Jr., Tribal Fishing Activist, Dies
Billy Frank Jr., Tribal Fishing Activist, Dies
Billy Frank Jr., Tribal Fishing Activist, Dies
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  • Billy Frank Jr., Tribal Fishing Activist, Dies

    In 1992, he was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, whose winners includeformer President Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu.

    "Today, thanks to his courage and determinedeffort, our resources are better protected, andmore tribes are able to enjoy the rightspreserved for them more than a century ago,"President Barack Obama said in a statement."Billy never stopped fighting to make surefuture generations would be able to enjoy theoutdoors as he did, and his passion on theissue of climate change should serve as aninspiration to us all."

    Salmon was central to his culture, as with most Northwest tribes, and Frank devoted decades of hislife to ensuring that fish, water and the tribal way of life were protected, said Washington state Sen.John McCoy, who is a member of the Tulalip tribe.

    "Billy was a champion of tribal rights, of the salmon and the environment," the governor said. "Hedid that even when it meant putting himself in physical danger or facing jail."

    Frank served as the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission since 1977. Theorganization of 20 Western Washington tribes was created in 1974, after the court case brought bythe federal government against the state of Washington.

    Frank was also known for his warmth and for giving out big hugs or gently ribbing people.

    The ruling, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979, effectively made the Northwest tribes co-managers of the resource and laid the foundation for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

    Demonstrations staged across the Northwest attracted national attention, and the fishing-rightscause was taken up by celebrities such as the actor Marlon Brando, who was arrested with others in1964 for illegal fishing from an Indian canoe on the nearby Puyallup River.

    Frank figured prominently in Northwest fish-in demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s thateventually led to sweeping changes in how salmon and other fish are managed in Washington state.

  • Frank's Landing, his family's home along the Nisqually River, became a focal point for fish-ins. Frankand others continued to put their fishing nets in the river in defiance of state fishing regulations,even as game wardens watched and cameras rolled.

    "It all revolved around fishing and the ability to fish," McCoy said. "He found it extremely importantthat this tradition be maintained."

    Nearly 70 years of advocacy ended on Monday when the Nisqually tribal elder died at his home nearOlympia. He was 83.

    From the time he was first arrested, at the age of 14, for fishing near his home, Billy Frank Jr. hadbeen a fierce and tireless champion for salmon, tribal sovereignty and the right of Northwest tribesto fish in their traditional waters.

    He was arrested more than 50 times for "illegal fishing" during the protests that came to be knownas the fish wars. Patterned after the sit-ins of the civil rights movement, the campaign was part oflarger nationwide movement in the 1960s for American Indian rights.

  • U.S. District Judge George Boldt, who decided the case in what came to be known as the "Boldtdecision," affirmed the tribes' right to half of the fish harvest -- and the nation's obligation to honorthe old treaties.

    Gov. Jay Inslee added his praise.