Legendary Billy Frank, Jr. – Fighter for Indian Fishing Rights & Environment – Walks On

Billy Frank, Jr. -1973 PHOTO Courtesy: Ecotrust

Billy Frank, Jr. -1973 PHOTO Courtesy: Ecotrust

Frank fought for American Indian Rights for More Than 60 Years

SEATTLE — Billy Frank, Jr., a tribal citizen of the Nisqually Tribe, who spent four decades fighting on behalf of Indian fishing rights and environmental, walked on this morning. He was 83.

A fighter until his death, Mr. Frank had awakened Monday morning around 6:00 a.m.to get ready for a meeting he was to attend. He showered and dressed, but was discovered hunched over his bed by his son, Willie, soon thereafter.

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.

Billy Frank, Jr. 1931- 2014

Billy Frank, Jr. 1931- 2014

His fight led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1979 that upheld a 1974 U.S. District Court decision to allow for about a half of catch for 20 tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

He eventually served as chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

His death on Monday, May 5, 2014, left the Pacific Northwest tribes stunned.

“We are all stunned and not prepared for this,” said W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman, who has worked with Mr. Frank since the early 1980s. “He was bigger than life. It’s a very sad day for all of us.”

Statement from the Nisqually Tribe:

“The Nisqually people are mourning the sudden passing of Billy Frank Jr. this morning.

“Billy dedicated his life to protecting our traditional way of life and our salmon.  For more than 60 years, Billy was in the center of action on behalf of the Nisqually people and of Native Americans throughout our country.  Along the way, Billy achieved national and international recognition as a towering figure protecting treaty rights, natural resources and the environment.

“Billy will be sorely missed and long remembered.  On behalf of the Nisqually people, the tribal council expresses our sincerest condolences to Billy’s family.”

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