Billy Frank, Jr. 1931- 2014
Published March 9, 2018
WASHINGTON – On Friday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Denny Heck (D-WA) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) introduced a resolution to honor Billy Frank Jr. and designate March 9, 2018, his birthday, as an official national day of remembrance of his life, legacy, and accomplishments.
“Whereas Billy Frank, Jr., refused to be bitter in the face of jail, racism, and abuse, and his influence was felt not just in Washington State but around the world,” the resolution reads. “[T]he legacy of Billy Frank, Jr., will live on in stories, in memories, and every time a Tribal member exercises his or her right to harvest salmon in Washington State… Billy Frank, Jr., continues to inspire those still around today and those still to come.”
Billy Frank Jr., a member of the Nisqually Tribe, was a longtime Indian treaty rights and environmental activist, known for leading the fight to restore and protect Treaty fishing rights in Washington state. For decades, he organized demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience to fight for tribal rights, culminating in the 1979 Supreme Court decision inWashington v. Washington State Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel Ass’n, which affirmed the treaty rights of tribes to fair fishing access. After the decision, as Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC), Frank Jr., helped develop the Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan, as well as working with state agencies and other groups to protect Treaty rights, protect salmon habitat, and sustainably manage fisheries throughout the state. In 2015, President Obama posthumously awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States government.
In 2015, Senators Cantwell and Murray and Representatives Heck and Kilmer introduced the Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act to rename the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The bill, supported by the entire Washington congressional delegation, passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law on December 18, 2015.