Please share your memories of the life and work of Billy Frank Jr. here.
I worked in our tribes natural resources dept for more than 25 years. So I have known about the nwifc all those years and the name Billy Frank jr. right away. was always a pleasure to see along the way, the mtg and workshops. always just encouragement to all levels to protect the resources from office to policy to field staff. hope he will find content with all that he has done, for so long, his foresight, knowledge, commitment, and the ability to communicate his feeling and message. I sure hope he will rest in peace! but we will miss him for sure. thank you Billy!
He didn’t mince words, they came from the heart and he said it like it was. His spirit will live on in memories and the heart. He was a beautiful person. Going to miss his hugs and pecks on the cheeks whenever I seen him. Great leader and fighter for our rights. My heart is very heavy at this time. Prayers for our community for our great loss.
Where does one start to remember such a great legend? I did not work with him nor was I in the same circles as him. I was never on Tribal Council or rubbed elbows at fancy banquets. For me we met mostly on Tribal Journeys. Always he encouraged me to continue to paddle and how proud it made him.Never did I feel inferior to him. He sat among us …laughed with us…joked with us…was never too busy for any one of us. I admired that in such an important person in NDN country. He never forgot the “people” that he fought for for so many years.always hugs with a purpose ..you knew when Uncle Billy hugged you that he meant it!!!.To his family >>Thank you for this gift you have given us,,,thank you for giving us time with him….thank you for sharing such a person with the world…..I will tell my children…my grandchildren and great grandchildren of this great man Billy Frank Jr that walked with us as Native people for the good of all Native people…. May the creator bless his journey and may others pick up his work and continue it.
From Makah Indian Nation
Makah Canoe Society
I had the privilege to work with Billy Frank when he played an integral role in the formalization of the United League of Indigenous Nations treaty that was signed by many indigenous groups from 4 different countries at the Lummi Tribal lands. As the former Chief of Sucker Creek First Nation in Canada, I got see an incredible, influential and inspirational leader in Billy Frank, and it was an to know and work with him.
– Jaret Cardinal
Former Chief of the Sucker Creek First Nation
I cannot quote, but the paraphrase my memory holds is still powerful. Billy said something to the effect, “In the future, you may all be living on Mars because the Earth is destroyed, but we Indian people will still be down here cleaning up your mess. We love the land. We are the land.”
In 1995, in my day gig as a WA state policy specialist and environmental activist, I had heard of Billy Frank but never met him. We connected through my extra-curricular activity as a late-in-life musician (blues-rock harmonica) who had never been in a group. Billy had asked my musical buddies Vinny Pollina and Craig Bartlett to play at his 64th birthday party. It was probably the first gig I ever rehearsed and played. Among the tunes we did was the Beatles’ “When I’m 64”, but it ended up as hootenanny, jamming in the living room with whatever songs Billy’s friends and family asked us to play. Billy and I encountered each other as I was about to leave. “You’re a really good player. You play . . . ,” putting his fist to his chest and opening it, ” . . . from the heart.” It was such a generous, selfless thing to do and say. I understood then: inspirational leadership, in the smallest moments of life, marked Billy Frank’s greatness.
When I came down from Alaska in 1986 to interview for a job with Tulalip, I stayed with my wife’s aunt and uncle in Kingston after the interview. Uncle Bill was an avid sports fisherman, and he was very interested that I was applying for a fisheries biologist job and didn’t pay too much attention to who the job was with. But, when the call came from Terry Williams to offer me the job, Bill realized that I would be working for a group that he didn’t understand very well and certainly didn’t like very much. However, my wife’s aunt and uncle liked me a lot, if only because I was married to their niece whom they thought very highly of. So, Uncle Bill kept quiet as all the nasty things he wanted to say about my new job passed through his head unspoken. Finally, he came up with something he could verbalize and said “One thing for sure — when Billy Frank says something you had better listen because he says it well and it’s usually true,” or words to that effect.
This was the way I first heard about Billy. Over the ensuing quarter century, plus, I was very fortunate to come to know him and to be inspired by his courage, kindness, and dedication over and over again. But I will never forget how he helped bring peace to my family, without even knowing he was doing it and before I even met him. Thanks for everything, Billy. I feel incredibly lucky to have known you.
Kit, I was just thinking about the video message Billy sent to your retirement party. He read the first part of it, and to be honest, sounded a little stiff. When I first started watching it, I was a little worried. But then he went off script and was as warm, gracious, and candid as ever. I’m happy we documented his words to you.
Kari, that video meant a huge amount to me at the time, and even more right now. I’m glad I had a chance to thank Billy personally for it, and I should thank you and and the other NWIFC staff that worked on it as well. Thanks. You guys are amazing. You will be at the forefront, now, of carrying on Billy’s message. And, I guess, really all of us who knew Billy and heard him speak have part of that responsibility.
We went to nisqually for pow wow, n my late uncle who was chairman of our tribe, the late Wilferd Yallup told me call this man uncle. They shared many fishing, political, funny, serious stories!
He supported so much in our Indian life…from traditions to social. When medicine creek basketball team played in our yakama nation all Indian invitational tournament, Mr. Franks could be seen sitting with their team cheering them on!
Earlier this year, the Yakima herald had a story about Washington state fishing convictions n there was a awesome photo of Mr Franks n my late uncle David Sohappy smiling n their arms around each other. May he rest in peace of the Creators arms. May his legacy live on through all who fight for our resoyrces n way of life.
Uncle, say hi to Gramma I know your together laughing and looking over us now. Forever remember you, our leader, our warriors, our hero, our mentor, Uncle Billy.
My late husband, Bob Hayman, who was a fisheries biologist for the Skagit River System Cooperative, worked with Billy Frank for many years. He often spoke of Billy, so although I only knew him through Bob’s stories, I had some sense of his courage, influence, and dedication. I will never forget Billy’s kindness to Bob and the rest of our family when Bob was stricken with a brain tumor and the wonderful speech that he gave in Bob’s honor at a reception for him in 2011.
We all knew Billy in our own unique way. His heart and his presence had a way of attracting people young and old, from all walks of life. His passion inspired us, his love encouraged us, and his words push us on: “Stay the Course.” His dedication and vigilance has laid the foundation for the path that this next generation, my generation, must follow. His lifetime of work demonstrates to us that we are no longer faced with a question of whether or not to take on the fight. Rather, how do we continue the fight? How do we continue to move forward; to advance treaty rights, protect our resources, our culture, our way of life- and ultimately our people.
The world seems a little quieter now in the immediate days following the departure of our dear, beloved elder. I had the great fortune to know Billy as I was growing up. He was a man that had gifted my family and myself with life-long friendship and mentoring; and a man that I had the eventual privilege to come to work with. I will miss our talks about fishing, the days of the Boldt decision, and the simple hello to check in. But most of all, I will miss the quiet guidance and reassurance he provided, as only Billy could, with his mere presence. He was a giant among men, a true si’ab –or chiefly person. He will be greatly missed by us all. Huy yuk si’ab, ?u tuq’kwat si’ab- Farewell, Chief and travel safe.
Thank you Billy for your leadership and courage. I see your Spirit here among us now stronger than ever. Your life and your actions will continue to inspire people to love the Earth more passionately, more carefully. Thank you.
I met Billy at a water conference. He is a big inspiration to me and my work. I had the opportunity to sit with him and think up ideas on clean water act n various other issues. I will miss his words of inspiration and encouragement! Prayers to the family and the environment. Thank you Billy for all your words of wisdom! Agnes Ketchen
I had the privilege of working in Education. When I worked in Yelm, this beautiful elder accepted the invite into the classrooms to talk about his life’s work. He was a very passionate man and he always spoke from the heart. We had little conversations in between classes, and he would tell me to ‘keep doing what you’re doing’ and never give up working with others. They need us. And remember, there’s not many of us left. He also knew my late father in law. And would tell me stories. Those little conversations will always remain with me forever. He had a lot of passion for others and the work he did here was iconic. We, as Native peoples, need to continue his legacy of work. Be passionate about the work we do. Thanks Billy Frank Jr. for those little conversations, I will always hold them close. You will always be remembered. Travel safe and we’ll see you again!
He was a very, understanding person. But, he alot like my grandfather, fighting for our rights.fighting for our people’s.
Given the enormity of problems facing the natural world Billy made it clear it was all our responsibility to do what we could. By embracing the tribal and non-tribal community he enrolled countless foot soldiers for what he knew was the fight of our life. While I am grateful for his inclusiveness be able to consider myself amongst those ranks, I hope it is not long before another tribal leader rises to speak for all those that have no voice in the houses of power.
He was arrested approximately 50 times for the civil rights of people. If he did not fight, our salmon (nutritious Omega-3) back in the 1970’s, could have been extinct from commercial fishing. When the government shutdown did not allow Veterans to enter the Veteran Memorial, Billy Frank, Jr., would have crossed the line! When we bite into the many ways to prepare salmon, let’s thank Billy Frank, Jr. who fought for our traditional foods, who fought for our environment that sustains our lives, and did so up to the day he passed away (and at age 83!!). He never forgot what was ethical, whereas many others turn their head and stand-by, and put his foot down to stop destruction – money destruction. We have to pick up the fight where he left off, for ten, fifteen, twenty generations to come. All my relations.
Uncle Billy! A human being whose warm heart, smiles and hugs I will truly miss..
Aloha and Mahalo for this notification through NIEA. I met “Uncle Billy” at the Hilton Hawaiian Village gathering of tribal chiefs, Alaska natives, and Hawaiians some years ago. I first saw Billy at the NIEA conference in Seattle. He was larger than life, an elder or kupuna as we say in Hawaiʻi, who was directing all of us to support then Senator Obama. He was giving us a history and current conditions of the salmon and his people. He was so filled with charisma, inspiration, and the power that drives people to action. When I met him in person, he welcomed me and treated me as if he knew me well. So much vision, practical and real. So connected to his ancestral rights and ancestral lines. There are few people who have made a true impact on my life in a short period of time. Iʻm so grateful to have crossed your path and to have been touched by your wisdom and courage. Ke aloha no Uncle.
Billy has been a part of lives since we arrived in Olympia almost 30 years ago. Our kids were attending pre-school at WaHeLut School on Franks Landing back then, it had just been built. He welcomed us into his world as if he’d know us all our lives, He taught our children to be proud of thier Indian heritage, to stand up for what they believed and to have a voice. I will miss his smile, BIG hugs and unique welcome which he shared so genuinely everytime he saw us. He was a good friend and mentor. Gods Blessings on Billy and Family always – we love you so very much and our hearts are with you. Maria Gardipee
I only saw Billy once in my life in 2009 and at the time I did not know who he was. Yet, when I saw him I knew he was someone if importance because he carried with him a powerful energy. Afterwards, I learned as much as I could about him and can now hardly believe he is gone.
I first met Billy in the early 90’s out on the Nisqually talking about fishing for salmon and the huge runs the river had produced when he was a young boy. He was my friend I will miss our long talks about salmon and conservation. I will miss you dear friend, I know your smiling down on us leaving your legacy for us. Rest in Peace
I first met Billy back when I worked in the US House of Representatives for the Committee that conveniently (and oddly) handled both fish and Indian issues. He was magnetic, passionate, and perseverant for the salmon and the People. I admired the love that he so deeply carried within him for the world around him. His accomplishments have transformed the Pacific Northwest and the way we view the world.
Billy and I became friends when I worked for his wife, Sue Crystal, as her Executive Assistant at the Governor’s Office. On the occasions that Billy could meet us for lunch or coffee, he always had a ready smile and hug for me. When I was the city of Centralia’s Mayor, I had the pleasure with Billy and others to dedicate the new Clocktower at Centralia College and I’ll never forget Billy’s words during his speech…”the moon and the stars belong to all of us.” Perhaps it was before, but I know for sure that from that moment on, I met no strangers and had a great respect for everyone I met. Billy was an exceptional human being. He will remain in the hearts and minds of many. His legacy will always include the salmon, the earth, nature, and respect and a love for all. I will miss seeing him when I return to the U.S. in the summers, but feel blessed that I knew this wonderful man. He touched so many lives and spoke such powerful and meaningful words. RIP
I had the pleasure to know, work with and learn from Billy Frank Jr. since 1980. As a young BIA employee my relationship, tense at first, later developed into one of mutual respect. If he asked about an issue, I was inspired to find a way to make it work. Many of our meetings involved attorneys and other bureaucrats and lots and lots of fisheries biologists. My goal was to encourage Congress to continue funding fisheries science and hatchery operations. Billy helped by putting into plain English the thoughts and goals from the heart of Indian Country and described the tribal attachment to the land. Congress listened – usually. It was his focus and clear thinking that enabled BIA to ‘translate’ those goals to The Hill. He was an important part of the successes we all saw since the Supreme Court decision in 1979 that reaffirmed Judge Boldt’s original ruling. He was always inclusive: It was “We accomplished” or “We managed”… never about his role or his actions; he acknowledged all of those who participated.
There is a void now in Indian Country where he once stood. His spirit however, still shines.
Among all of Billy Frank’s great achievements, I was witness and participant with him at one event on August 1st of 2007 at the Lummi Reservation. Billy was one of seven of us at a sunrise ceremony. During this ceremony a Treaty Tree was planted in honor of the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty that was signed by 11 Indigenous Nations later that day. Billy spoke during the final negotiations for the treaty, advocating for exercising our sovereignty locally and throughout all of Mother Earth. Today in 2014 there are ninety signatory nations and the number is growing. His advocacy in support of this international effort for protecting indigenous treaty rights, natural resources, intellectual property rights and the health and well-being of all of Creation will long be remembered. This is but one of the many long lasting impacts of his vision for our shared future. I will miss his warm greetings and hugs, but I will forever be a better person for having known him.
Frank Ettawageshik, Executive Director United Tribes of Michigan
– former Chairman of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
From the moment I met Mr. Franks when I was a little girl I was in awe of him. By then the turmoil in the early sixties had somewhat subsided and he was a hero to me. I was in awe of his strong inner beliefs and his unstoppable determination to fight for what was right and just. He embodied what we all should hope to be.
I met Mr. Franks one day at my grandfather’s office in Olympia. He was a frequent visitor there as he and Grandad were good friends. My father, who worked with Grandad was sharing stories with me today of Mr. Franks’ visits. It seems that he took great joy in bringing them salmon, and it became a greatly anticipated visit. It was common for him to conceal the salmon in wrapping and just when Grandad would think, in great disappointment, that there was no salmon, Mr. Franks would carefully unwrap it much to their joy. It always resulted in a lot of joking between them.
Grandad was an avid trout fisherman and he and Mr. Franks would tell each other fish stories at each visit. I would see him often, and feel great pride knowing he was friends with my father and Grandad.
I went through life still thinking of Mr. Franks as an incredible teacher and advocate. His heroic status in my mind has never wavered. His strength and wisdom was far beyond what the majority of people could ever hope to possess. His devotion to what was right and just was incomprehensible.
I will never forget him. He was an amazing man. Thank you for all you gave the world. Thank you for being a hero in my eyes.
As a young fisheries biologist, Billy forever changed the way I look at Native Americans and salmon in this beautiful world. His words were about how he wasn’t going anywhere; the Indian people aren’t going anywhere; they’ve always lived here. His teachings gave me a perfect perspective on the tribes’ sense of place and time. It committed me to the tribes and their cause for life. Thank you dear friend.
My Uncle “Bill Staatz” had a strawberry farm near the train bridge over the Nisqually in the 60’s and 70’s. He used to let the guys cross his land with their horses but they would have to pay with “fish” I am pretty sure let Billy fish off his land and would then bailed him out of jail. My mother used to make comments about it when I was growing up, because it was quite controversial at the time, but I was just a little girl. At his funeral, there were over 200 native tribes people there. I remember they were all in the balcony because they were not allowed with in the white section,. I remember looking up during the funeral in 1973 and seeing a “Chief” dressed in full regalia. Does anyone remember the Staatz strawberry farm along the river down there?
I was just thinking about Billy. I used to live in the Nisqually on the former Medicine Creek (now McAllister Creek) and was honored to count Billy as a friend and was proud to have followed and helped him during the troubles. I miss the advice he gave to a kid who had just joined the Army and the man later who had just gotten out of the Army. I miss him and I miss seeing the tree off to the right when I am heading south.