2019 – ADVOCACY
(1931-2014) Billy Frank, Jr. was an environmental leader and treaty rights activist known for his grassroots campaign for fishing rights on the Nisqually River in Washington State in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also known for promoting cooperative management of natural resources.
The Native nations in western Washington reserved the right to fish at all usual and accustomed places and to hunt and gather shellfish in treaties with the U.S. government negotiated in the mid-1850s. But when tribal members tried to exercise those rights off-reservation, they were arrested for fishing in violation of state law. Billy was arrested more than 50 times in the Fish Wars of the 1960s and 1970s because of his incredible dedication to tribal fishing rights. In 1974, the Boldt Decision ruled in favor of the tribes, thus establishing the 20 treaty tribes in western Washington as co-managers of the salmon resource with Washington State and re-affirming tribal rights to half the harvestable salmon returning to western Washington. Billy served as Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more than 30 years. In November 2015, President Barack Obama announced that Billy would receive a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom. In December 2015, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.