Today, we remember the incredible leadership of Billy Frank, Jr. Born in 1931 and a citizen of the Nisqually Tribe, Frank was a lifelong activist and advocate for tribal treaty rights, salmon, fishing rights, and the environment. Decades ago, he took beatings and arrests through his activism – and his “fish ins” – which set the course for America to honor its obligations to tribal treaties through the landmark Boldt Decision in 1974. This decision allocated 50% of annual salmon harvest to tribes and codified the treaty rights of tribes to fish in usual and accustomed waters.
Frank continues to inspire the movement to fight for treaty rights and for our environment’s protection in the Northwest and beyond–even after his passing in 2014.
Please take a moment to learn about Frank’s groundbreaking and heroic work and the responsibility we must all take to build on the work he has done to preserve the natural and cultural integrity of the lands upon which our state’s borders have been drawn.
We’ve included some resources where you can begin your learning journey, both about Billy Frank Jr.’s life and about policies like the Boldt Decision that he and so many others helped bring to life.
Collecting Works of Billy Frank Jr.
Browse the collected columns and articles of Billy Frank Jr. through this free download offered by Northwest Treaty Tribes. Here you’ll find over two hundred pages of Frank in his own words, responding to legislators and providing commentary on important issues related to Native Nations.
Honoring Billy Frank Jr.
In this video, Frank shares his stories about activism and recalls what it took to bring about policy-wide action that prioritized tribal fishing rights and salmon.
Animated by Injunuity, a Native owned production company, this short video is narrated by Billy Frank Jr. and recounts the cultural and ecosystemic importance of salmon.
Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition
Through the organization Salmon Defense, this coalition aims to “Provide Diverse Leadership to Achieve Salmon Recovery and Preserve Fisheries through Advocacy and Education.” Learn more about their tenets and the specific target areas of their work, inspired by Billy Frank Jr.
Resources for Educators
If you are a teacher and are interested in including curriculum about Billy Frank Jr.’s life and legacy, sign up here to stay up to date on curriculum development efforts.
If Billy Frank Jr.’s story has inspired you to act, consider what you can do to uphold treaty rights and restore our ecosystem to support teeming salmon runs for the future.
We are indeed at a critical moment where investing in protecting salmon needs your support. The Washington State Senate proposed a strong budget approach this year with major investments in salmon habitat restoration. Voice your support by contacting your legislator and tell them to support this $150 million recovery effort here.
If you want to learn more about our state’s relationship with Native Nations and tribal treaty rights, consider starting with some of these resources:
Northwest Treaty Tribes: https://nwtreatytribes.org/treaties/
Treaty Rights at Risk: Download and read the report about why treaty rights are threatened