Monday, May 5, 2014

The Passing of Billy Frank Jr.

Above: Billy Frank Jr., fourth from the left, is the only one looking at me in this previously unpublished group photo at the conclusion of a Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council meeting on January 17, 2014 in the GA Building in Olympia. 
by Janine Unsoeld
I usually attend Puget Sound Partnership leadership council meetings when they are held in Olympia just to hear Billy Frank, Jr. speak. And when he spoke, everyone listened.
Billy Frank, Jr., serving as Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, has forged cooperative agreements which include the interests of tribal, commercial, and sports fishermen, while protecting and advocating for the fisheries resources of future generations.
In my January 16 Little Hollywood blog post at, I briefly quoted Frank, who wanted to help incoming Partnership director Sheida Sahandy and Governor Jay Inslee better understand the dire situation and the need to better describe the Puget Sound story:
"We have a lot of problems...the salmon can't get to the Narrows Bridge before they die...same with Squaxin coho...there are no flounders anymore, the little critters are all gone...." Billy Frank Jr. told Inslee and Sahandy.
In a press release today, Washington State Jay Inslee said, "Washington lost a true legend with the passing of Billy Frank, Jr. today.
"He was a selfless leader who dedicated his life to the long fight for the rights of our state's native people. Billy was a champion of tribal rights, of the salmon, and the environment. He did that even when it meant putting himself in physical danger or facing jail.
"I'm thankful Billy was here to see the 2014 Legislature pass a bill helping to overturn convictions from treaty protests. Billy was right on this issue and the state owed this gesture of justice to him and others who jeopardized their liberty to fight for treaty rights.
"Billy never wavered in his conviction and passion. He stressed to me the spiritual and cultural relationship that indigenous people have with salmon.
"His work is the foundation of an enduring legacy that will never be forgotten in Washington state.
"He once said, 'The Creator put that salmon there for it to survive.' I thank the Creator for putting Billy here to make sure we never forget what he fought for.
"Trudi and I send our condolences to Billy's family, friends, tribal members and everyone across the state and the country who mourns the passing of this great man."

Above: Billy Frank Jr., left, speaking at a Puget Sound Partnership meeting on February 6, 2013 in Olympia. When Billy spoke, everyone listened.