The Legend Leaves the Room: Billy Frank Jr. passes.

It is hard to imagine the world of Northwest environmental protection without Billy Frank Jr’s voice being heard. I will let the eulogies from the Tribes carry that, and will add them as they show up, but from my non-Tribal perspective, he loomed over the landscape like a giant among us. It was his (and a few others like Robert Satiacum, etc.) fight that blossomed into Fish Wars and the ultimate Boldt Decision, that changed the balance of power in the environment here forever. It brought the voice of the people who cared the most about the environment, the Tribes, his people, to the table of the powerful. And it empowered a generation of Tribal leaders to stand tall and demand what was legally, by US Treaty, theirs.

He never stopped fighting for the environment and it’s iconic and real symbol, the salmon.

If you want to hear his words, here is a good start, both for the history of the Treaty Rights battle, his own struggles, and the perspective of activism on behalf of the Salish Sea. I recorded them as part of the Northwest Straits Annual Conference in 2012. The talk was entitled:”Treaty Rights At Risk”. Introduced by Terry Williams.

Billy’s last column for the Northwest Indian Fisheries

His Facebook page, with his latest issues. Worth a look at what is important now.

His autobiography, which is a very interesting read for anyone interested in the NW history.

It was a great honor to have met him briefly on a couple of occasions. He always shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said hi, and thanks. Thank you Billy Frank Jr. for a life well lived. We are all in your debt forever.

“I hope I can live to be 120 because it’s going to take that long to turn this ship around…You got to be very patient at what we are doing…I talked to the President, the Department of Interior, Secretaries of Commerce, the Governor, and a lot of these people are talking the happy talk, ‘Oh we love salmon, we love Puget Sound, we love to go fishing, all the business community loves salmon’ but then no one does anything about it. No one is in charge. So that’s why we are here…If the United States Government doesn’t take back their authority, we are gone. There will be no fish. But this is our country. All of us. So how are we going to make it happen? That change. You have to make it happen. We have to make it happen. We all have to keep the pressure on the United States Government to make that change. We haven’t seen a change yet, but…we are going to see a change. So here we are. You guys are so important to everything we do. I just want to thank you.” Billy Frank Jr. 2012

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