Standing steps from the Nisqually River where Billy Frank Jr. fished, Governor Jay Inslee, signed a bill into law to honor the late Nisqually Tribal member with a statue in our nation’s capitol.
Of the momentous event, Frank’s son, Willie Frank III, said:
“This isn’t just about our tribes in the state of Washington, this is Indian country. And I don’t think there could be a better human being that gets honored, because of his co-management, his way of bringing us together,”
The ceremony took place in the lobby of Wa He Lut Indian School and included songs and an opening prayer, as well as speeches from his son, Inslee, Nisqually Chairman Ken Choke, Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, and Lekanoff, who is Tlingit and Aleut.
Born in 1931, Billy Frank Jr. lived a life dedicated to protecting endangered salmon and the treaty rights of Washington state tribes and tribal members. He organized “fish-ins” and other demonstrations to reassert the tribal fishing rights reserved in the treaties.
These events eventually led to what is known as “The Boldt Decision” in the United States v. Washington, a 1974 federal court case that reaffirmed tribal rights to harvest salmon and steelhead and established treaty tribes as comanagers of Washington fisheries.
The signing of the bill begins the process to replace one of Washington’s statues in the National Statuary Hall of settler Marcus Whitman with one honoring Frank.
In February, Washington Wild’s Executive Director Tom Uniack submitted testimony in support of the bill.