It's a good day to celebrate Billy Frank Jr.
Billy Frank Jr. led protests for tribal fishing rights across Washington in the 60s and 70s. He was arrested more than 50 times for his activism and defiance starting at age 14. His efforts helped lead to a landmark Supreme Court decision that honored tribal treaty rights.
On March 9, each year, several Northwest tribes, schools, and public agencies celebrate Billy Frank Jr. Day.
illy Frank Jr. died in 2014, but not without leaving a lasting legacy. His son, William Frank III, is now the chairman of the Nisqually Tribe. Although his dad was most known as an activist, his son describes him foremost as a fisherman.
“I see him sitting right along the Nisqually River, right by where we set net, right where my grandfather's house used to be, overlooking the Nisqually River,” he said.
He says his tribe works to carry on his dad’s legacy of environmental stewardship.
“What he would want us to do is protect the resources, to educate people, and understand the responsibility that we have to protect the Mother Earth here,” he said. “It's not about just leaving it for Nisqually kids, it's about leaving it for all of the kids here in the state of Washington.”
Sometimes that means having difficult conversations about land use policy, or educational sessions about the history of the tribe.
Frank said the goal is to build community and find solutions not just for today, but for the next seven generations.
A statue of Billy Frank Jr. is in the works for the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. The statue of Frank will replace a statue of Oregon Trail pioneer and missionary Marcus Whitman.
In honor of Billy Frank Jr., Thursday, March 9 is a “free day” when a Discovery Pass is not required to visit Washington state parks.