Washington State Senate honors Billy Frank Jr.


The legacy of Billy Frank Jr. endures. The environmental, tribal and civil rights leader, truly a giant in U.S. and Washington state history, died in May 2014 at the age of 83. But he won’t soon be forgotten.

Just in the last couple months, a Salmon Totem Pole was built in his honor on the Nisqually reservation, near Olympia. He was mentioned prominently, along with Marlon Brando, in a new song by Native American hip hop artist and author Gyasi Ross.

And those honors are just the tip of the iceberg. This week the 49-member Washington State Senate passed a resolution commemorating Frank and his impressive legacy.

Here is the full text:

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. of the Nisqually Tribe was an unflinching advocate for environmental protections in Washington and human rights for Native Americans, and he firmly believed in honoring and preserving the earth; and

WHEREAS, During the Fish Wars of the 60s and 70s, Indian Tribes were fighting for their right to fish in their own historical territories, a right that was guaranteed to them in the 19th century by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. was arrested over 50 times for standing up for Native American treaty rights; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr.’s unwavering actions helped lead to the Boldt Decision, which established Indian Tribes in Washington as comanagers of the salmon resource and reaffirmed tribal rights to harvestable salmon; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. shaped Washington State as it is known today in not only advancing cooperative management over natural resources between tribes and the state, but also in the fight for equality for all people; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. supported Indian Tribes in Washington for over 30 years as chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which gave tribes a powerful voice to express their concerns to Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. was dignified with numerous humanitarian awards for his service, including the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, Washington State Environmental Excellence Award, and American Indian Distinguished Service Award, along with countless others; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. passed away on May 5, 2014, at the age of 83, and he was on that day, as on most days, on his way to a meeting about fish and tribal treaty rights; and

WHEREAS, Washington must continue to remember Billy Frank Jr.’s legacy, his passion, and the strides he made to defend and protect his tribe, his country, and our earth; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. stressed the importance of both the spiritual and cultural ties of salmon to indigenous people throughout Washington and the nation; and

WHEREAS, Through his lifetime of kinship with the natural world, Billy Frank Jr. helped create a healthy environment that can sustain salmon, achieved change, and brought diverse and divergent communities together around shared desires through nonviolent means; and

WHEREAS, Billy Frank Jr. spent his entire life bringing together those with diverse ideologies and backgrounds around a shared passion for sustainability

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Washington State Senate honor Billy Frank Jr. and the impact he had on tribes, the state, the nation, and the earth, and now let him inspire all of us to carry on his legacy.