On Wednesday, June 4th, 2014, a resolution honoring Billy Frank, Jr., one of the nation’s foremost advocates for tribal rights, salmon recovery, and conservation efforts, passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

“I was proud to pass a resolution honoring a man who dedicated his life to making Washington state a better place,” Senator Murray said.  “Billy Frank, Jr. will be greatly missed by generations of Washingtonians and everyone who was lucky enough to call him a friend.” 

“This resolution honors the incredible life and legacy of Billy Frank, a hero of the Pacific Northwest,” Senator Cantwell said. “Billy championed environmental rights and the rights of Native American people to fish. And he championed salmon to make sure that they had good habitat. We’ll never forget his bravery and leadership, which led to the breakthrough Boldt Decision and forever changed the landscape of the Pacific Northwest.”

Full text of the Resolution below:

Honoring the life, accomplishments, and legacy of Billy Frank, Jr, and expressing condolences on his passing.

Whereas in the 1850s, the United States Government signed a series of treaties with Washington State tribes under which the tribes granted millions of acres of land to the United States in exchange for the establishment of reservations and the recognition of traditional hunting and fishing rights;

Whereas Billy Frank, Jr. was born to Willie Frank, Sr. and Angeline Frank on March 9, 1931, at Frank’s Landing on the banks of the Nisqually River in Washington State;

Whereas the tireless efforts and dedication of Billy Frank, Jr. led to a historic legal victory that ensured that the United States would honor promises made in treaties with the Washington tribes;

Whereas Billy Frank, Jr. was first arrested in December of 1945, at the age of 14, for fishing for salmon in the Nisqually River;

Whereas Billy Frank, Jr. was subsequently arrested more than 50 times for exercising his treaty-protected right to fish for salmon;

Whereas over the years, Billy Frank, Jr. and other tribal members staged “fish-ins” that often placed the protestors in danger of being arrested or attacked;

Whereas during these fish-ins, Billy Frank, Jr. and others demanded that they be allowed to fish in historically tribal waters, a right the Nisqually had reserved in the Treaty of Medicine Creek;

Whereas declining salmon runs in Washington waters resulted in increased arrests of tribal members exercising their fishing rights under the Treaty;

Whereas on February 12, 1974, in the case of United States v. Washington, Judge George Hugo Boldt of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a decision that affirmed the right of Washington treaty tribes to take up to half of the harvestable fish in tribal fishing waters and reaffirmed that the United States must honor treaties made with Native American tribes;

Whereas the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Boldt decision, and the treaty tribes became co-managers of the salmon resource in the State of Washington;

Whereas after the Boldt decision, Billy Frank, Jr. continued his fight to protect natural resources, salmon, and a healthy environment;

Whereas the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, where Billy Frank, Jr. served as chairman, works to establish working relationships with State agencies and non-Indian groups to manage fisheries, restore and protect habitats, and protect tribal treaty rights;

Whereas Billy Frank, Jr. refused to be bitter in the face of jail, racism, and abuse, and his influence was felt not just in Washington State but around the world;

Whereas Billy Frank, Jr. was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, the Common Cause Award for Human Rights Efforts, the American Indian Distinguished Service Award, the Washington State Environmental Excellence Award, and the Wallace Stegner Award for his years of service and dedication to his battle;

Whereas the legacy of Billy Frank, Jr. will live on in stories, in memories, and every time a tribal member exercises his or her right to harvest salmon in Washington State; and

Whereas the legacy of Billy Frank, Jr. transcends his 83 years and will provide inspiration to those still around today and those still to come: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) honors the life, legacy, and many accomplishments of Billy Frank, Jr.; and

(2) extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of Billy Frank, Jr., the Nisqually Tribe, all Native Americans, and all people around the world who were inspired by his example.