Billy Frank, Jr.
Billy Frank, Jr.

Yesterday, President Obama announced that Billy Frank, Jr. will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

As President Obama’s press release noted, Billy was a tireless advocate for treaty rights and environmental stewardship, and his activism paved the way for the “Boldt decision,” which reaffirmed tribal co-management of salmon resources in Washington.  Billy led “fish-ins,” which were modeled after sit-ins of the civil rights movement, during the tribal “fish wars” of the 1960s and 1970s.  “His magnetic personality and tireless advocacy over more than five decades made him a revered figure both domestically and abroad.”  Billy Frank Jr. “left in his wake an Indian Country strengthened by greater sovereignty and a nation fortified by his example of service to one’s community, his humility, and his dedication to the principles of human rights and environmental sustainability.”

In short, Billy was a visionary, a fiery leader, and a hero for Indian rights.  He walked on last year and everyone in the NARF family misses his warmth, generosity, and strength of conviction.

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