Cynthia Iyall: Billy Frank was legendary figure in Indian Country

Billy Frank Jr., 1931-2014. Photo from Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Cynthia Iyall, the chairwoman of the Nisqually Tribe of Washington, pays tribute to the late Billy Frank Jr.:
Billy understood that winning our sovereignty meant playing the long game. He joined his father’s cause for tribal sovereignty on the banks of Nisqually River in the fish wars of the 1960s, through the Boldt decision, and countless years leading the NW Indian Fisheries Commission and other efforts. Winner of the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, he grew to become a beacon for tribal sovereignty movements around the world.

Billy inspired, pestered and chastised politicians and agencies to be accountable. He fought for what was right, and he persuaded others to do the same through his charisma and force of personality. He also knew when it was time to stop fighting and find common ground. This wisdom led to landmark agreements, major salmon recovery investments and securing of our tribal rights.

But his fight was far greater than tribal sovereignty. He was an advocate for our planet’s interests. Billy understood that when salmon and shellfish are plentiful, everyone benefits. Clean water, air and earth are vital for everyone. We all depend on the planet. This was his life lesson.

Whether visiting at Frank’s Landing, meeting officials or dedicating a new tribal facility, Billy knew no strangers. His infectious smile and warm hug tempered his passionate spirit with a deep love for humanity. It was this unique blend of drive and heart that both endured our people to him and disarmed his foes. To meet Billy was to hug Billy. This was the uncle we knew and loved.

Get the Story:
Cynthia Iyall: Billy Frank Jr: Everyone’s Uncle (Indian Country Today 5/8)

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