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Billy Frank, Jr

He died yesterday, a member of the Nisqually tribe. In the 60’s he became a leader in the pursuit of Indian rights granted them by treaty to the fish, shellfish, and wildlife of the lands that were being taken from them. As usual in these cases of our history, he led demonstrations, uprisings, unfortunate incidents, downright violence, jailings, and court cases.

The Judge Boldt Decision granted the Indians half the “catch” in all resources given the treaties we had signed with the Indians. This was a most upsetting decision of the federal court. You see, while we signed a treaty that gave the Indians full access to their resources, we also later declared that 100% of the resources belonged to us. [Us: the white people, the Europeans, the interlopers, the conquerers, the occupiers]. This was what Billy Frank was complaining about, and I doubt any thinking person would disagree with him. The Boldt Decision was dramatic, but really just cut the baby in half.

You know those thick booklets containing fish and game regulations of the state? Most of that language in Washington is based on Boldt. Indians are exempt from state-defined seasons for salmon and such, whites (sorry, but that’s the way it’s thought of) get a couple of days a week during defined seasons to take salmon. Indians get full access to shellfish, whites get 4 days a week. It goes on and on.

The point of Boldt was that we signed a treaty, we must keep to it’s terms.

The Boldt Decision was history-making, and Billy Frank led the movement saying we weren’t being honest to our treaty. Thanks, Billy, someday we’ll know what you did.

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