Lorraine Loomis, Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
I am honored and humbled to follow in the footsteps of Billy Frank Jr. as chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
Of course no one can ever truly replace our longtime chairman and friend Billy Frank Jr. It will take all of us to do that.
Billy wrote this column for many years. The tribes decided to keep the name to honor him and remind everyone what this column is about: Frank, honest talk from the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington who are co-managers of the natural resources.
Like many people, I drew much strength from Billy over the years. But the biggest source of strength for me has always been my family, especially my parents.
My dad, Tandy Wilbur, was the first general manager of the Swinomish Tribe. He and my mother, Laura, worked tirelessly to secure the funding that founded the Swinomish tribal government. When he passed away in 1975 my mother continued their work. She went on to serve for 50 years in the tribal senate and was instrumental in tribal advances in housing and health care before her passing in 1997.
I started out in the fish processing business in 1970. It was hard work and long hours. I switched to fisheries management following the Boldt decision in 1974. I thought that maybe fisheries management might be a little bit easier than working 14-15 hours a day, seven days a week.
I was wrong.
My dad told me that it would take about 10 years before the Boldt decision would operate as it should. There was a lot of fighting with non-Indian fishermen in the early days after the Boldt decision. You never knew what to expect when you went out on the water. It was 1982 before true co-management became a reality through development of the first joint Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan by the tribes and state.
As my tribe’s fisheries manager for 40 years, I’ve seen incredible advances in salmon co-management, both regionally and internationally.
I am especially proud of tribal involvement in developing and implementing the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty that governs the sharing of salmon between the two countries. I continue to serve on the Fraser River Panel that manages sockeye and pink salmon through the treaty. I also continue to coordinate tribal participation in the North of Falcon fishery planning process with the state of Washington. I have served as an NWIFC commissioner for the past 30 years, most of them as vice-chair.
I love fisheries management. When we have a fishery opening – and salmon fishing is not open a lot these days – you see the happy faces of the tribal fishermen. You know you have done your job. I live for that. It’s my life.
None of us tribal natural resources managers are working for today. We are all working for tomorrow. We are working to make certain there will be salmon for the next seven generations.
We face many challenges in the years to come. Salmon populations continue to decline because we are losing habitat faster than it can be restored. As the resource continues to decline, salmon management becomes increasingly difficult because there is less room for error. That puts our tribal treaty rights at great risk.
We need hatcheries and habitat to bring back the salmon. We need hatcheries to provide salmon for harvest, support recovery efforts and fulfill the federal government’s treaty obligations. We need good habitat because both hatchery and wild salmon depend on it for their survival.
We also need to work together, because that is always best. We’ve known for a long time that cooperation is the key to salmon recovery, and that we must manage for tomorrow every day.
The 22nd annual Salmon Homecoming Celebration being held September 18 to 20 at Waterfront Park in Seattle, Washington is dedicated to the life and memory of the late Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, longtime defender of treaty rights and chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
The celebration’s theme is “Man has responsibility, not power,” based on a traditional proverb of the Tuscarora Indian Nation.
Frank passed away on May 5 at the age of 83. He had been an adviser to and supporter of Salmon Homecoming throughout its history. “Billy understood the responsibility spoken about in that Tuscaroran proverb,” said Salmon Homecoming president Walter Pacheco, Muckleshoot. “He knew we are all responsible for the health of the salmon, the environment and the protection of the land, air and water.”
The event celebrates Native American culture and the importance of salmon—culturally, economically, environmentally and spiritually—to the people of the region. The celebration includes arts and crafts, environmental exhibits, visits to the Seattle Aquarium, storytellers, a salmon bake, a Northwest gathering and powwow, and a canoe welcoming event.
“For 22 years, the Salmon Homecoming Alliance has brought Native American culture and traditional environmental knowledge into the heart of Seattle, providing a unique opportunity for people from all walks of life to learn about and enjoy the many lessons and customs of the indigenous people of this land,” Pacheco said.
“It has always been our belief that everyone, regardless of age, gender or vocation is someone of great importance and—as the Tuscarora proverb indicates—has a responsibility to help take care of the land and natural resources needed to sustain future generations.”
Salmon Homecoming Celebration sponsors include Native American governments, the City of Seattle, the State of Washington and King County.
Being Frank is the monthly opinion column that was written for many years by the late Billy Frank Jr., NWIFC Chairman. To honor him, the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington will continue to share their perspectives on natural resources management through this column. This month’s writer is Lorraine Loomis, vice-chair of the NWIFC and fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe.
By Lorraine Loomis, Vice-Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
OLYMPIA – So much has been written and said about the passing of Billy Frank Jr., our great leader and good friend. Many people are asking how to honor Billy’s memory. Who will take his place?
One way we can honor Billy’s legacy is to carry on his work:
We must recover wild salmon to levels that can once again support harvest. That is the only true measure of salmon recovery. To do that, we must do more to protect and then to restore salmon habitat. Right now we are losing habitat faster than it can be fixed. That must change or we will continue to lose the battle for salmon recovery.
We must maintain strong salmon hatchery programs. Most hatcheries were built to mitigate for lost natural wild salmon production caused by damaged and destroyed habitat. Tribal, state and federal hatcheries are operated safely, responsibly and using the best science to minimize impacts on wild salmon. Some hatcheries produce salmon for harvest. Others aid recovery of weak wild stocks. Every hatchery is essential to meeting the tribal treaty right by contributing salmon that are available for harvest. Without hatcheries there would be no fishing at all in most areas of western Washington. We must have hatcheries as long as wild salmon habitat continues to be degraded and disappear.
We must achieve a more protective fish consumption rate and maintain the current cancer risk rate to improve water quality and protect the health of everyone who lives in Washington. The two rates are key factors that state government uses to determine how much pollution can be dumped in our waters. The state admits that the current fish consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day (an amount that would fit on a soda cracker) does not protect most of us who live here. It is among the lowest rates in the country, despite the fact that we have one of the largest populations of fish and shellfish consumers in the United States. Currently the cancer risk rate from toxins in seafood that the state uses to set water quality standards is one in a million, but Gov. Jay Inslee is considering a move to reduce that rate to one in 100,000, a tenfold decrease in protection. We believe Washington’s fish consumption rate should be 175 grams per day – the same as Oregon – and that the cancer risk rate should remain at one in a million.
We must really, truly clean up Puget Sound. Every few years state government creates a new agency or cooperative effort to make that cleanup a reality. Year after year, decade after decade, we have all been working toward that goal, but we are not making sufficient progress. The main reason is lack of political will to develop and enforce regulations that could make cleanup a reality. Until that changes, the cleanup of Puget Sound will not happen.
We must stop plans to expand the transport and export of coal and oil through our state’s land and waters. Increased oil train and tanker ship traffic and more export terminals offer nothing but problems. The likelihood of oil train explosions and derailments, along with the potential for devastating spills from tanker ships, threaten tribal treaty rights, the environment, our natural resources, our health and even our very lives. The few, mostly short-term jobs that they might provide are just not worth the cost.
We must continue to work together on the problems we all share. We have shown that great things can be accomplished through cooperation, such as the Timber/Fish/Wildlife Agreement and the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty. If we work together we can achieve both a healthy environment and a healthy economy. If we continue the conflict we will achieve neither outcome. A healthy environment is necessary to support a healthy economy in this region and the people who live here demand it.
Billy worked his entire life to make western Washington a better place for all of us to live. Tribal treaty rights that protect natural resources help make that possible, and benefit everyone who lives here, not just Indian tribes.
As for the question of who will pick up where Billy left off, the answer is all of us. No single person will ever be able to replace him. That’s a job for everyone. There is only one direction we can go: Forward – together – on the path Billy showed us with the teachings he shared.
SHELTON, Wash. (AP) — Thousands of people attended a funeral service for Billy Frank Jr., the Nisqually tribal elder who fought for Indian fishing rights in Washington state and was an advocate for salmon habitat.
Frank died May 5. He was 83.
Frank figured prominently in Northwest fish-in demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s that eventually led to sweeping changes in how Washington manages salmon and other fish.
Among those at the service Sunday at the Little Creek Casino Resort’s Event Center were Gov. Jay Inslee and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Inslee said Frank was a state and national leader and that when he spoke, “people listened.”
About 6,000 people attended the service, said Little Creek spokesman Greg Fritz. Crowds also watched the service on jumbo screens from a large tent and other areas of the resort.
The service featured traditional Indian Shaker Church prayers, a presentation of a folded U.S. flag for the family — Frank had served in the Marine Corps — and remarks from more than 20 tribal leaders and elected officials.
“I often said that no one cared more about salmon and the planet Earth than our friend Billy,” said former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.
Cantwell described him as “a legend that has walked among us,” comparing his legacy to those of Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
Frank was arrested more than 50 times for “illegal fishing” during the protests that came to be known as the fish wars. Patterned after the sit-ins of the civil rights movement, the campaign was part of larger nationwide movement in the 1960s for American Indian rights.
In 1992, Frank was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, whose winners include former President Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu.
Swinomish tribal chairman Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, described Frank as a forceful teacher and a truth teller.
“Billy treated everyone with respect, even when we failed to live up to his expectations,” Cladoosby said.
In the early hours of May 5, after a lifetime dedicated to protecting treaty rights of northwest tribes, Billy Frank of Nisqually dies at age 83. He is known for championing the battle for Treaty Indian fishing in the 1960s and 1970s, which culminated with the momentous Boldt Decision. He remained ceaseless in his work as chairman at the Northwest Indian Fish Commission (NWIFC) to protect and preserve the salmon resource in all aspects, continuing his work until his final day. The nation mourns the loss of a great man.
In a White House press release, President Barack Obama said this, “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Billy Frank Jr. Today, thanks to his courage and determined effort, our resources are better protected, and more tribes are able to enjoy the rights preserved for them more than a century ago. His passion on the issue of climate change should serve as an inspiration to us all. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and to Billy’s family, and to his many friends who so greatly admired him.”
Tulalip Tribal Chairman Herman Williams Sr. said, “He’s always been that symbol of our relationship with the state and federal government. He’s the one out in front, leading the fight.”
As serious and determined as he was, Billy was exceedingly humble. He was a man of the people. Wherever he went, he seemed to know everyone, and was always thrilled to see his friends and relatives. He spoke frankly, and was never afraid to speak his mind and say what he knew to be right.
Terry Williams, who worked closely with Frank through the Tulalip Natural Resources Department, said, “Billy had a saying I just loved. He’d say, ‘You have got to tell the truth and recognize the truth.’ That’s what we have faced all our lives.”
Billy Frank spoke from the heart with passion and tenacity. He was revered for his words and what they accomplished.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, told the Everett Herald, “Billy Frank was a legend among men. Today, America lost a civil rights leader whose impact will be felt for generations to come.”
His death comes in the middle of a crucial discussion in Washington State that will change the way salmon are protected. The Fish Consumption Rate and the pollution rate are issues to be decided this year. If he were here, his words would be to stay the course. The battle doesn’t stop with the rights, it continues for the survival of the resource.
February 12 of this year marked 40 years since the Boldt Decision. At a celebration at the Squaxin Island resort remembering the battle for Treaty Indian fishing, Frank highlighted how the future of tribes is intertwined with the future of the environment. He said, “We have to protect the salmon. Look at California. The tribes there have the first water right, but there is no water. We have a right to the salmon, but if there are none, what kind of right we got?”
Tulalip Chairman Williams agrees that the fight must continue, but people have to pick up where the old leaders have left off.
“Where will the next Billy Frank rise from?” he said.
Andrew Gobin is a reporter with the See-Yaht-Sub, a publication of the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department. Email: email@example.com Phone: (360) 716.4188
Billy Frank Jr., the charismatic leader in the successful battle over fish, was praised by President Obama: “Thanks to his courage and determined effort, our resources are better protected, and more tribes are able to enjoy the rights preserved for them more than a century ago.”
He was beaten and clubbed and tear-gassed and jailed, watched police slam friends in the back with brass knuckles and saw his teenage niece punched in the face by a game agent.
Billy Frank Jr.’s decades-long battle with authorities over tribal rights to catch fish — beginning with his arrest at 14 in 1945 for filling his net with steelhead and chum — propelled him to the forefront of one of the Northwest’s greatest civil-rights movements.
And when a federal judge in 1974 affirmed Indian treaty rights to half the region’s salmon, the angry young Nisqually fisherman who’d suffered so much violence at the hands of the state didn’t simply head back to the river.
Instead, Mr. Frank transformed himself into a charismatic statesman for tribal rights, traveling the country and the world and becoming one of the nation’s most influential Native Americans.
Billy Frank Jr. — smart and generous, befriended by senators, called upon by presidents and looked up to by a generation of young tribal leaders — died Monday at home. He was 83.
“He’ll stand with all the great Indian names of the past two centuries in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation,” said his longtime friend Hank Adams, who first met Mr. Frank at the height of the region’s salmon wars in the 1960s. “His is a name that will stand out in the future for all he’s given to Indians and the world.”
His son, Willie Frank, said, “He wanted all these tribes to understand that if they worked together we could do anything.”
In the latter half of his life, Mr. Frank spent decades fighting in Olympia and Washington, D.C., to protect forests and salmon streams from excessive timber harvest and development. He battled in court, in endless public meetings and in private conversations with anyone who would listen.
He used a soft voice, strong handshake, hearty hugs and stories laced with profanity to disarm all he encountered, earning the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1992.
President Obama on Monday hailed Mr. Frank’s accomplishments.
“Today, thanks to his courage and determined effort, our resources are better protected, and more tribes are able to enjoy the rights preserved for them more than a century ago,” he said in a statement.
Gov. Jay Inslee called Mr. Frank not just a tribal leader but a state leader.
“We can’t overstate how long lasting his legacy will be,” Inslee said in an interview. “He pushed the state when he needed to push the state. And he reminded the state when it needed reminding. His legacy is going to be with us for generations. My grandkids are going to benefit from his work.”
Mr. Frank was still such a force in Washington tribal and political circles, and his father had lived to be over 100, that many were caught off-guard by his death.
“We are all stunned and not prepared for this,” said W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman, who had worked with Mr. Frank since the early 1980s. “He was bigger than life. It’s a very sad day for all of us.”
From the beginning, all Mr. Frank really wanted to do was catch fish, as his father had since before Washington became a state.
But despite 19th-century treaties promising Northwest tribes shared access to salmon and steelhead, as stocks plummeted early in the 20th century, state game agents began harassing and arresting tribal fishermen, including Mr. Frank’s father.
“To understand Billy, you really need to understand his dad,” said friend Tom Keefe, who first met Mr. Frank when Keefe was an aide to U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson in the late 1970s.
“Billy’s dad was really the guy who told Billy, ‘You stick with this river and if the state interferes, let them throw you in jail, but when you get back out, go back to fishing.’ ”
Mr. Frank did, again and again and again, even after a stint in the U.S. Marines in the 1950s and while working as a utility lineman in the 1960s.
By 1962, harassment was turning exceptionally violent, with state game agents staging night raids with billy clubs and tribal fishermen fighting back with rocks.
In 1964, Adams, an Assiniboine-Sioux, brought actor Marlon Brando to the Northwest to bring attention to native “fish-ins,” expecting him to fish illegally in solidarity with the tribes at Frank’s Landing near the mouth of the Nisqually. He got TV newsman Charles Kuralt to interview Mr. Frank’s father, but Brando ultimately was arrested on the banks of the Puyallup River. It would be another decade before U.S. District Judge George Boldt affirmed the tribes’ right to half of the fish harvest — and the nation’s obligation to honor the old treaties. In 1993, another court decision extended that affirmation to the harvest of shellfish.
By 1974, Mr. Frank was angry and drinking heavily. His friends had been trying to convince him he could become a great leader — if he could get past the alcohol. He entered treatment the same year Boldt made his decision and stayed sober for 40 years. Friends said it helped set the course for the rest of his life.
When Keefe introduced Mr. Frank to Magnuson, the two hit it off right away. When Magnuson lost his re-election bid, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye took Mr. Frank under his wing. The two became very close. “Even if you didn’t agree with him, it was hard to come away not liking him,” Keefe said.
Steve Robinson, who worked side-by-side with Mr. Frank for 30 years, serving as his spokesman and writer starting in the mid-1980s, said Mr. Frank would never hesitate to do battle over what he believed. But he also had the instincts and skills of a diplomat.
“We would have visitors from Russia, Asia, South America, and he’d delight them all,” Robinson said. “He’d travel to Barrow or Kamchatka and kids would line up to see him. … He knew no strangers and hugged everybody.”
Kyle Taylor Lucas, a Tulalip Indian and former director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, recalled Mr. Frank’s deft diplomacy during the scores of oft-heated meetings to negotiate Washington’s new timber harvest rules during the mid-1980s.
But Lucas noted Mr. Frank’s contributions extended far beyond fishing rights.
“I think the tendency is to compartmentalize what Billy achieved in terms of fishing,” she said. “But in fact, what he did was help to cement treaty rights for all of Indian Country, that go to health and education and so many facets of what it means to be Native American.”
Added Lucas, “When I think of him, I think of a peaceful warrior. He was so humble, he was so kind and he treated everyone with respect and dignity.”
But Mr. Frank was still a fighter to the very end, said his son, who woke his father around 6 a.m. Monday to get ready for another meeting.
Mr. Frank showered and dressed, but when Willie went back to check in, his father was hunched over in bed. The cause of death was unknown.
“I asked him every day if he was feeling good, but he would never tell me if he wasn’t,” Willie said. “He wouldn’t want people to worry about him.”
Mr. Frank was predeceased by his first and second wives, Norma and Sue Crystal, and by his daughter, Maureen. He is survived by three sons, James “Sugar,” Tanu and Willie Frank.
Services are pending.
Seattle Times staff reporter Lewis Kamb contributed to this report.
When do your rights expire? When do the terms of treaties cease? Never. The Boldt Decision sought to resolve these questions. In 1970, at the height of tensions between Puget Sound tribes and the State of Washington, the United States on behalf of the tribes filed suit against the State of Washington for violating the tribes’ treaties. More than three years later Judge George H. Boldt, who heard U.S. v. Washington and for whom the decision is named, handed down his decision in favor of the tribes, reaffirming the treaties and rights secured to Indians therein. Forty years later, tribal leaders from Puget Sound tribes, activists, and other notable people involved in the battle for Treaty Indian fishing rights gathered February 5th and 6th in Squaxin Island to remember the fight to protect their right, to discuss the importance of the Boldt Decision and all that it accomplished, and to reaffirm the commitment to continue the fight.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the State of Washington began filing injunctions, blocking Indian fisheries in the name of conservation. Indian people throughout the Puget Sound, though, continued to fish, practicing their culture and feeding their families, risking arrest and violence from state law enforcement.
Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually elder and prominent figure throughout the Boldt Decision, said, “We came down to the river, and they [the cops] had confiscated everything. ‘Where are our nets? Our boats?’ I thought. ‘How are we supposed to feed our families?’”
“We had to fish at night, which was dangerous. But we had to fish at night because it was illegal. What could we do? It was our way of life, we couldn’t stop,” recalled Hank Adams, a Native American activist from the Assiniboine Sioux tribe. Adams fished with Billy Frank and his family on the Nisqually River.
Frank championed the fight for treaty rights, with many leaders at that time rallied behind him and his family. Their traditional fishing grounds, Frank’s Landing, became ground zero in the battle for Treaty Indian fishing. Frank’s Landing played host to many fish-ins in protest of the injunctions, which gained national attention. Tribal leaders were joined at fish-ins by members of AIM (The American Indian Movement) and celebrities, such as renowned stage and screen actor, Marlon Brando. Most fish-ins ended in mass arrests. One famous photograph shows Brando packing two salmon up the bank at Frank’s Landing, only to be arrested with other participants.
Puyallup Elder and fisherwoman, Ramona Bennet, recalls being arrested on several occasions.
“They heard we were fishing, and the pigs [cops] come down to arrest us. Women, children, men, they didn’t care, they arrested all of us, whole families. One of the pigs went over to my mom, knee deep in fish in the back of a pickup. She told them, ‘You want my fish? HERE!’ and she picked up a fish and slapped that pig upside the head.”
Because of the tensions at Frank’s Landing, not every fish-in ended in arrest. Hank Adams remembers how nervous Thurston County Sheriffs were, not wanting to escalate the dispute.
“One day we were fishing, and Billy went up the [Nisqually] river to check the net. The Sheriffs launched two air boats at the rail bridge upriver and were comin’ for Billy. I was at his sister’s place. He come tearin’ down the river shouting, ‘Get the gun!’ So I grabbed the rifle and headed out the door. I ran down the bank and came to a clearing and ran into some other law enforcement. There was an old burnt out car, so I ran and jumped down behind it. I used my army training and used the butt of the rifle to break my fall, and when I did that the rifle went off. At the same time my hand slipped off the butt of the gun and hit what Billy tells as a broken beer bottle, but it was a Pepsi bottle. So I cut my hand on the neck of that Pepsi bottle and was bleeding everywhere. But when that gun went off, the guys in those airboats hit the deck and flew right on past Billy, and he hit the bank and was unloading his fish. Next thing we know, there’s about 30 Thurston County Sheriffs cars and some state troopers pulled up, guns drawn, and the chief jumps out in front and says, ‘Hold your fire, put your guns down, everyone just calm down.’ He come over and looked at me and my hand, ‘Come on over here I got a first aid kit in the truck,’ he said. He got me all bandaged up, the bandages were all bloody, it really just looked terrible. The newspapers the next day said, ‘Mystery surrounds evening events at Frank’s Landing. No arrests were made, though Native Activist Hank Adams sustained some sort of injury.’”
These encounters happened on a daily basis, as the state held their injunctions to be valid, and acted accordingly. Tribal families experienced hardships as heads of household were jailed repeatedly. The tribes stood firm on the treaty, fighting to protect their fishing rights, and ultimately their sovereignty.
Frank said, “Who do I go to? Do I go to the governor? Do I go to the congress? Nobody listens…oh you’re all just Indians.”
In 1970, with the state continuously challenged by the tribes, the United States as the trustee of the tribes filed suit against Washington in Federal District court, Judge George H. Boldt was assigned to the case.
Members of Judge Boldt’s family attended the celebration and were honored for his memory. His daughter, Virginia Riedinger, had this to say.
“My father grew up in Chicago with nothing but the American dream. His father moved them to Montana where he finished high school. He put himself through college, and graduated with a law degree from the University of Montana in 1926. After practicing law for more than 15 years, he enlisted to serve this country in WWII at an age that was unheard of, especially as a volunteer. When he returned he became a trial lawyer in Tacoma Washington, and was later appointed by President Eisenhower as the Federal District Court Judge in 1953, where he spent more than 25 years on the bench.
As a judge, my father held true to the laws of this country. He believed in the law, and was known for his hard decisions and expedited court processes. He often was recruited to assist in other courts across the nation that were backlogged with cases. One thing was constant, my father always did what he knew was right and I never knew him to look back with regret or doubt.”
As the case continued, and later was decided, Judge Boldt and his family were subjected to vicious public attacks on his reputation. A photo displayed throughout the celebration captured a burning effigy of the Judge, strung up in a tree outside the District Courthouse, all wrapped up, presumably, in an Indian fishing net. Even so, Boldt remained undeterred in his will to uphold the law.
For more than three years the case went on, hearing from both sides. The case was rather unique in some aspects, as the question of fishing rights had not been previously understood from a legal perspective. There was limited legal precedent that reaffirmed the treaties and preempted state laws. For this case, the information had to be more in depth. Charles Wilkinson, a law professor at the University of Colorado and well-known legal scholar, gave a powerful speech about the Boldt Decision.
“Judge Boldt, ruling on the basis of justice in its most luminous dimensions rather than on the strenuous hearsay and other technical objections of the state’s attorneys, accepted the elders’ testimony into evidence and listened raptly.
Ask people who saw all or most of that trial, and they will tell you that the elders’ testimony brought the whole story together. Judge Boldt had worked hard and open-mindedly on this case and, by the time the elders took the stand, he had acquired an expansive knowledge of Indian law, and all the testimony already heard may have caused him to have his final ruling in mind. But the straightforward, utterly authentic words and bearing of the traditional Native people made his decision of February 12, 1974 inevitable.”
Relying on testimony of the elders, along with the vast ethnographic work of scholars, such as Dr. Barbara Lane, who were called as expert witnesses, Judge Boldt looked critically at the language of the treaty. He handed down his decision in 1974 in favor of the tribes, holding the United States accountable to the promises of the Stevens Treaties of the Washington Territory, including the Treaty of Point Elliot, the Treaty of Point No Point, and the Treaty of Medicine Creek.
What did the decision mean? Was it truly a victory? At the time, not all tribal people saw it as such.
“I cried when I heard the decision. ‘We lost half our fish!’ I yelled,” said Bennet.
Others saw it as a great victory, for Washington tribes, for fishing, and treaty rights, and for tribes across the nation. The decision reaffirmed the treaties and recognized the sovereignty of tribes.
Wilkinson said, “Make no mistake about it: the transcendent contribution of the Boldt Decision was to uphold the treaty rights of the Northwest tribes. But it was also a national case about national commitments and values.”
Because the state refused to act on the decision, continuing attempts to block Indian fisheries, Judge Boldt exercised continuing jurisdiction, rarely used, which maintains the court’s control over decisions, to ensure the decision was implemented. Judge Boldt was committed to upholding the law and his decision, and his continuing jurisdiction is still in effect today.
The fight continues, though today the questions have shifted. What does it mean to have a treaty right to fish? Boldt’s decision recognized tribes as sovereign, and having a shared right to the salmon resource naming them as co-managers and regulators of the resource, but what does that mean? The fight for Treaty Indian fishing was about bringing the past forward, the fight today is about protecting the future of the resource.
Frank said, “We have to protect the salmon. Look at California. The tribes there have the first water right, but there is no water. We have a right to the salmon, but if there are none, what kind of right we got?”
Recently, what’s known as the Culvert Case held the state accountable for making streams in developed areas passable to salmon. The State Fish Consumption Rate, which affects water quality and pollution, says that, on average, citizens consume eight ounces of salmon a month, about the size of one U.S. quarter a day. For Puget Sound tribes, salmon is a staple both in diet and culture. Today, it remains central to tribal economies as it has historically, even pre-contact. If the consumption rate stands, more pollutants would be allowed to go into the water, meaning more salmon die off.
Frank said, “They’re poisoning the water. It’s poisoned. The salmon that come out of the Nisqually River, half of them are dead before they reach the Narrows [in Tacoma].”
The tribes have won the Culvert Case, and continue to work on others.
Throughout the celebration, an empty chair sat near the front. It was a symbol of all the ancestors of the tribes that fished the Puget Sound, as well as those warriors of the Boldt Decision that have passed on; Guy McMinds, Bernie Gobin, Vernon Lane, and Chet Cayou Sr., to name a few. The importance of this chair is immense. It represents the passing of the torch to the younger generation. The celebration of the Boldt Decision was to remind the younger generation about the importance of the treaty, how hard their elders fought to protect it, and how hard they need to continue to fight for the treaty, for their sovereignty, and for their culture.
Andrew Gobin is a reporter with the See-Yaht-Sub, a publication of the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (360) 716.4188
The legislation itself might not help very many people.
A search of records by the Washington State Patrol shows that perhaps as few as 80 people still alive were arrested and convicted of state crimes related to what is now remembered as the Fish Wars.
One was Nisqually Tribe elder Billy Frank Jr.
“I was 14 years old when I first got arrested,” he told the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee in Olympia on Tuesday. Frank was 14 in 1945.
The value of House Bill 2080, even for Frank, may be more symbolic than practical. By making it easier for tribal fishermen to have their records cleared, the state of Washington would be acknowledging not only that it was wrong but that it caused real harm to real people.
“This is small. This doesn’t do the times justice,” Rep. David Sawyer said of his bill. It does, however, give the state another opportunity to “own up to our own mistakes.”
“Very few things are more dear to the culture of a tribe as fishing. It is a huge part of their culture, and it’s something we stole from them,” Sawyer said.
That Sawyer, a liberal Democrat from Tacoma, would sponsor HB 2080 isn’t surprising. Some of the co-sponsors, however, might seem unexpected to those who recall the politics of the Fish Wars. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, Western Washingtonians and Eastern Washingtonians are among the 15 sponsors of the bill.
History shows that tribal members bristled under state restrictions on their fishing rights almost from the beginning of statehood. But the issue heated up after World War II when younger tribal members became more assertive.
At the same time, fish supplies were strained by environmental degradation and overfishing, and the state became more aggressive in managing the fishery. Off reservation, tribal fishermen had to follow the same regulations as nontribal fishermen, the state asserted, including limited seasons and restrictions on equipment such as gill nets.
Building slowly, the issue exploded in the 1960s when tribal members adopted tactics practiced by the black civil rights movement. Whereas blacks in the South held sit-ins to protest segregated facilities, the tribes began to hold fish-ins. Authorities often responded with arrests and harassment.
And as in the South, mainstream media paid more attention when celebrities got involved. One in particular is still revered by Puget Sound tribes.
“The greater force against you was indifference rather than the people who were hitting you all the time,” actor Marlon Brando later wrote that he told the National Indian Youth Council in 1961. “Then if you could break that indifference you could get the mass of non-Indian people on your side.”
According to “Where The Salmon Run,” by Trova Heffernan, in attendance at that Utah conference was Hank Adams, who would soon be a leader in the tribal rights movement in the Puget Sound area. When Adams heard that Brando wanted to join a fishing protest in Washington, he saw it as a way to break through white indifference. At 2 a.m. on March 2, 1964, Adams roused reporters to tell them to be on the Puyallup River near Tacoma that very morning.
Brando and Puyallup activist Bob Satiacum got into a canoe and, at least according to a game agent, took salmon from the river illegally.
Here’s how Brando described it in his autobiography: “I got in a boat with a Native American and a … priest. Someone gave us a big salmon we were supposed to have taken out of the river illegally, and, sure enough, a game warden soon arrived and arrested us.”
According to Heffernan, the fish had been purchased earlier at Johnny’s Seafood. The spot on the river is still known as Brando’s Landing.
Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory played a similar role at Frank’s Landing on the Nisqually. Unlike Brando, who was never charged, Gregory served six months in the Thurston County jail, Adams told the House committee Tuesday.
The most violent confrontation might have been along the Puyallup in September 1970. A large protest camp had been set up beneath a railroad bridge since Aug. 1. From there, tribal members continued to take fish despite state objections. After two raids mid month, the tribal leaders announced that they would arm themselves.
On the morning of Sept. 9, well-armed Tacoma police officers, along with state game and fisheries agents, broke up the camp, arresting 62 adults and 10 juveniles. Some shots were fired and tear gas was released, but there were no injuries.
The beginning of the end came in 1974 when U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt ruled that the treaties promising that the tribes could take salmon “in common” with white fisherman meant 50 percent of the catch. He also ended state restrictions on tribal fishermen. That ruling was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979.
Frank said he lost track of how many times he was arrested, sometimes guessing at least 50 times between 1945 and Boldt’s ruling.
“That’s a long time of your life to be going to jail for something you believe in,” Frank said.
Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/01/16/2933590/peter-callaghan-bill-could-help.html#storylink=cpy
By Billy Frank Jr., Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries
OLYMPIA – As removal of two fish-blocking dams on the Elwha River dams nears its end, I’m scratching my head. Why is a proposal to build a brand new dam on the Chehalis River watershed in Lewis County receiving serious consideration? And why is the Quinault Indian Nation being left out of the discussion?
There is no question that terrible flooding has occurred on the Chehalis during recent decades. People’s lives and homes have been damaged and destroyed. I-5 has been closed for days. But much of that damage has been caused by encouraging development in flood prone areas and by the unwillingness of short-sighted politicians to enact proper flood plain management systems. While a few entities have taken steps to restrict development in harm’s way from flooding, others have not. Building more dams is not the answer. Condemning an entire ecosystem and subjecting everyone who lives in the basin to the long term effects of a dam is not the best or the only way to fix the problem.
I thought we had learned our lessons about dams by now. All over the country dams are being taken out to try to undo the damage they have done to critical natural processes. Time and again, dams have been proven to kill fish and destroy the natural functions of the watersheds after they’re built. We need to be looking forward when it comes to natural resources management. Building a flood control dam on the Chehalis is backwards thinking that doesn’t contribute to sustainability of our natural world. We need to do whatever we can to avoid damage before it is done. Flood control dams prevent the river’s natural floodplain from doing its job to help reduce the effects of flooding. While a dam may reduce how often floods occur, it can’t prevent the biggest, most damaging floods from happening.
The Chehalis River basin – the second largest in the state – already is heavily damaged. More than 1,000 failing and under-sized culverts block access to more than 1,500 miles of salmon spawning and rearing habitat. A huge network of poorly maintained logging roads is loading silt into the river and smothering salmon egg nests. At the same time, forest cover in the basin is quickly disappearing, reducing shade needed to keep stream temperatures low for salmon
A dam would only make things worse. The only thing it would be certain to do is harm salmon and steelhead at every stage of their life cycles and damage natural functions that are vital to every living thing in the Chehalis Basin.
Unfortunately, the State of Washington refuses to recognize that as a co-manager with treaty-reserved property rights to fish, hunt and gather in the Chehalis Basin, the Quinault Indian Nation must be directly engaged in government-to-government discussions about flood control and measures to protect the health of the Chehalis Basin. It is painfully clear that the Quinault’s treaty rights will suffer severely if a new dam is built. Yet the Chehalis Basin Flood Control Authority, which is due to make its recommendations on flood control measures this time next year, flatly refused to even allow the Quinault Nation to sit at the table.
Ongoing loss and damage of salmon habitat threatens tribal treaty rights. Through the tribal Treaty Rights at Risk initiative, we are asking the federal government to protect our rights and lead a more coordinated effort to recover and protect salmon in the region. One of our recommendations is a requirement that federal funding for state programs and projects be conditioned to ensure the efforts are consistent with state water quality standards and salmon recovery plan goals. That’s what should be done on the Chehalis. Preconditions should be established before allowing any federal funding to be spent to study or begin permit review processes. As a start, commitments must be made to fully protect the ability of the Quinault Nation to exercise its treaty protected rights by addressing harmful impacts on fish, wildlife, and ecological processes. All governments in the Chehalis Basin must be required to ensure that future development in flood prone areas is not allowed.
Federal agencies, the State of Washington, and the Chehalis Flood Control Authority need to sit down with the Quinault Nation. Together, they need to address flooding issues while also meeting the needs of the natural resources and everyone in the Chehalis basin whose culture, food and livelihoods depend on those resources.