Billy Frank, Jr. Remembered by President Obama and Other Leaders

Billy Frank, Jr. 1931- 2014

Billy Frank, Jr. 1931- 2014

SEATTLE— Longtime American Indian fishing rights advocate and environmentalist Billy Frank, Jr.,(Nisqually), who walked on Monday, May 5, is being remembered for his great contributions he made on behalf of American Indians. Mr. Frank was 83.

Frank was first arrested at the age of 14 for exercising the fishing rights he felt were his as an American Indian to fish for salmon. During his decades of fighting for tribal fishing rights, he was beaten by non-Native fishermen who were in opposition of Indian fishing rights. Frank was arrested more than 50 times.

Condolences and words of appreciation were released yesterday and last night by leaders, including President Barack Obama, in statements from Washington and across the nation. 

Statement by the President on the Passing of Billy Frank, Jr.:

President Barack Obama

President Obama

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Billy Frank, Jr. – Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe.  Billy fought for treaty rights to fish the waters of the Pacific Northwest, a battle he finally won in 1974 after being arrested many times during tribal “fish-ins”.  Today, thanks to his courage and determined effort, our resources are better protected, and more tribes are able to enjoy the rights preserved for them more than a century ago.  Billy never stopped fighting to make sure future generations would be able to enjoy the outdoors as he did, and his passion on the issue of climate change should serve as an inspiration to us all.  I extend my deepest sympathies to the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and to Billy’s family, and to his many friends who so greatly admired him.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Baker

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Baker

Statement by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker:

“Today, indigenous citizens throughout the world lost a true champion in Billy Frank Jr. He was a beloved leader, warrior and advocate for tribal sovereignty. He fought tirelessly for fishing rights that were guaranteed to Native people through treaties negotiated with the federal government. He was ahead of his time in his commitment to natural resource preservation. Throughout Indian Country, we all knew Billy as a man who led by example, campaigned for fairness and Indian people, and defended tribal traditions. He will be missed immensely, and we at the Cherokee Nation are keeping his family and his tribe in our thoughts and prayers.”

Statement by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell:

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

“Indian country and the nation lost a true giant as Chairman Billy Frank has walked on. His lasting legacy will be felt for generations in the hearts and minds of those he touched over an entire life dedicated to serving others. Two weeks ago, the entire room fell silent at a tribal summit held at the Suquamish reservation in Washington to listen as Billy spoke forcefully and passionately about the need to tackle the growing threat of climate change.  Billy shared a great sense of urgency that we come together as one people to work toward practical solutions to address its impacts. 

“To honor his life of service, let us redouble our efforts to do everything we can to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities and to partner with tribes across the country on caring for our lands, waters and wildlife.  On behalf of all Department of the Interior employees, we extend our deepest condolences to the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and to Mr. Frank’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

 Statement of Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn:

Kevin Washburn, Assistant Interior Secretary - Indian Affairs

Kevin Washburn, Assistant Interior Secretary – Indian Affairs

“Billy Frank Jr. was an undaunted defender of and respected elder statesman for tribal treaty fishing rights.  For over 30 years he helped lead the fight to preserve and protect the salmon and its habitat in Western Washington, thereby ensuring it remains a vital part of Northwest tribal culture and the Pacific Northwest’s economy.

“His wisdom on the importance of conservation and the protection of natural resources has been recognized by all who love the great outdoors.  Thanks to his leadership and years of hard work, we can continue to appreciate the great gifts of nature that are still with us and the tribes of the Pacific Northwest can still rely on the salmon to sustain them for generations to come.

“Thank you, Billy, for your tireless work for Indian Country and our nation.

“On behalf of my office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, we extend our condolences to the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and to Mr. Frank’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Billy Frank, Jr. 1973

Billy Frank, Jr. 1973

Statement by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

“Billy Frank, Jr. was an historic and heroic leader of his generation. With his passing, America has lost one its greatest voices for justice. Billy has been a close friend and partner to the Environmental Protection Agency over the past four decades, as a member of the Nisqually people, founder of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and one of the most forward thinking environmental leaders of our time.

His ability to bring together leaders from all sectors to further the protection of critical natural resources resulted in a resurgence of momentum on natural resource conversation, cultural preservation, the protection of fish, treaty rights, and climate change. Through his tireless efforts, as a passionate voice for the protection of our air, water, and land, EPA’s own tribal efforts were strongly influenced in the early 1990’s as we created an office to more directly address Tribal issues across the country. We will, in that spirit, continue working to strengthen our government-to-government relationship and partnership with tribal citizens.”

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  1. Jim Neeley 6 years ago
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