RIP Billy Frank Jr.: `A singular force’

RIP Billy Frank Jr.: `A singular force’


(Photo courtesy of Laura Mott)

Billy Frank Jr., a central figure in the decades-long struggle for tribal fishing rights, has died at age 83.

Frank, longtime chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Evergreen trustee and civic activist, was subject of a well-received Legacy Project book, “Where the Salmon Run: The Life and Legacy of Billy Frank Jr.”  It is available free online, and for sale in print.It was written by Trova Heffernan and published by the University of Washington Press in 2012.  It is widely used in classrooms.

Frank and other activists engaged in “fish-ins” and agitated for fishing rights under terms of hundred-year-old treaties. U.S. District Judge George Boldt agreed with their argument and ruled in the 1970s that tribes had a treaty right to the opportunity harvest half of the catch in their usual and accustomed fishing grounds. He was upheld on appeal.

Gov. Jay Inslee said “Billy never wavered in his conviction and passion” and added, “Washington lost a true legend with the passing of Billy Frank Jr. today.”

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said:

“We join Billy Frank’s legions of fans around the country in mourning the passing of a true Washington icon. Billy was a singular force of nature and a central player of tribal-state relations in the past half-century. Long after the `Fish Wars’ were settled, Billy remained engaged as the longtime leader of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, patriarch of higher education for tribal youth at The Evergreen State College, and a tireless voice for economic and social justice. He will be missed, and it will be up to all of us to carry on his work.”

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