Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: Billy Frank, Jr.

Institute for Tribal Government

Produced by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University in 2004, the "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" interview series presents the oral histories of contemporary tribal leaders who have been active in the struggle for tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and treaty rights. The leadership themes presented in these unique videos provide a rich resource that can be used by present and future generations of Native nations, students in Native American studies programs, and other interested groups.

In this interview, conducted in June 2001, longtime treaty rights activist and chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Billy Frank, Jr. (Nisqually) shares his experiences as a leader battling on the front lines to protect and maintain the treaty-guaranteed fishing rights of his people and other Native peoples in the Pacific Northwest.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Institute for Tribal Government.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Frank, Jr., Billy. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government, Portland State University. Olympia, Washington. June 2001. Interview.

Kathryn Harrison:

"Hello. My name is Kathryn Harrison. I am presently the Chairperson of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. I have served on my council for 21 years. Tribal leaders have influenced the history of this country since time immemorial. Their stories have been handed down from generation to generation. Their teaching is alive today in our great contemporary tribal leaders, whose stories told in this series are an inspiration to all Americans, both tribal and non-tribal. In particular it is my hope that Indian youth everywhere will recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by these great tribal leaders."

[Native music]


"Billy Frank, Jr., born in 1931, is a member of the Nisqually Tribe in southwestern Washington. A principal activist in the struggle to uphold Indian treaty fishing rights, he learned his tribe's heritage from the vivid stories of his father, Willie Frank. The life of the Nisqually people was abruptly altered in the mid-1850s, the treaty period of federal Indian policy in the northwest. The Medicine Creek Treaty took away some of the Nisqually villages and prairies but it did guarantee the tribe's right to fish at 'all usual and accustomed grounds and stations in common with all citizens of the territory.' Billy Frank was fishing with his father in an area restricted by the State of Washington when, at age 14, he was first arrested. The opponents of tribal fishers held that tribal members were subject to state regulations while fishing off their reservations and that treaties signed in the mid-1800s were invalid. Over the years he was arrested more than 50 times. His family endured repeated persecution, raids, beatings, fines and jail. The so-called 'Fish Wars' of the 1960s and '70s became a symbol of the struggle for tribal sovereignty rights across the nation with celebrities like Dick Gregory lending support. Many U.S. citizens became aware of sovereignty issues being played out in the Pacific Northwest. The politically charged events, which rival a Shakespearean history, culminated in the landmark ruling of federal judge George Boldt in 1974: 'Indian fishers are entitled to half of the harvestable catch of salmon in Washington.' But Billy Frank learned that victory in court did not eliminate conflict and hostility. He became an artist of shrewd compromise, bringing diverse interests together to seek solutions on complicated issues. In 1992, he received the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Award. Today, he chairs the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which represents 20 Washington tribes in negotiating natural resource management plans with state and federal officials. Charles Wilkinson, in Messages from Frank's Landing, writes, 'Billy Frank, Jr. has been celebrated as a visionary, but if we go deeper and truer, we learn that he is best understood as a plain spoken bearer of traditions, passing along messages from his father, grandfather, from those further back, from all Indian people really, messages about the natural world, about society's past, about this society, and about societies to come.' Wilkinson reflects on the development of Billy Frank as a leader: 'If it is true that Billy's first three decades scarcely suggested what was to come, it is also true that a standard account of a budding activist's education and jobs rarely reveals the personal qualities churning and building over the years of a young life that will cause a person to assume the burden of challenging accepted authority on behalf of a sacred cause.' The Institute for Tribal Government interviewed Billy Frank in June 2001 at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission."

The Nisqually Watershed before the arrival of explorers and settlers

Billy Frank:

"You know, this place was a magical place, and my dad and grandpa always talked about how they never wished for anything. They had everything, and they always asked my dad about Social Security number and he never did have one. He always said he never did need one. He had everything. He had all the fish and all the food, we had all the vegetables up on the prairie, we had all of our medicines, we had everything. We had shellfish down here and clean water and clean air and just everything that you needed. Every year on the watershed, we had our lodges up in the mountain where we picked huckleberries and all of our berries and gathered up on our mountain and then down with our canoes we went down and out into Puget Sound and gathered and dried all of our shellfish. We caught a lot of flounders and different foods that we'd put up for winter but it was always a cycle of the first salmon would come in in springtime and that would start our ceremonies and winter would be over. And then from that day on we start preparing for the next winter and so that cycle would just keep going. We had our flutes and we had our drums and we made our own music and we knew our own songs and we played them and danced and we had everything. Our society was intact."

The State of Washington often fought tribal treaty fishing rights

Billy Frank:

"All of a sudden, the laws started to be wrote. Here comes the State of Washington, became the State of Washington, and of course they had a legislature that started writing laws and they wrote laws against us, us Indian people, for fishing and not on the reservation, but our reservation was only like maybe two miles long along the watershed. And so they pretty well had us just on the reservation. That's what brought about the U.S. v. Washington, because it just was a continual fight with the State of Washington, and even the United States Army was on the State of Washington's side. They were across the river all the time and the State of Washington used their property to get to us. I just continued to go to jail along with a whole bunch of us and we continued to fight the State of Washington. Other tribes also continued to do that now. So we protested."

Billy Frank's mentors were Nisqually leader Leschi and his own mother and father. His father was moved to what is now Frank's Landing when the Army took over most of the Nisqually reservation for Fort Lewis in 1917.

Billy Frank:

"My dad lived to be 104 and mom lived to be 96 so they were with us all the time and that was, they held us together and kept us together and that was a big part of us. The Bureau of Indian Affairs -- which at that time was in South Dakota somewhere -- and they knew that the Army was taking over the reservation, two thirds of it, but they said, "˜If you buy land, Willie Frank, anywhere we'll put it back in trust for you, restricted trust status,' and so that's why we ended up at the mouth of the river. But yeah, dad had a hard time. He was taken away to school when he was young and they took all the Indian kids up to this side of Seattle, a long ways away from home and they gathered them all up and hauled them off to school. All of that time, if you're not in the community, people die and aunts die and uncles, and people all of a sudden they're gone."

Fishing was a way of life, and getting arrested

Billy Frank:

"I'd take my canoe and go up the river and I'd leave my canoe. You can't do that now, there's so many people along the watershed you can't even hide your canoe or anything. But I could hide my canoe along the river and I could go up the trail at dark time, no light or anything, get my canoe and come down, pick my net up and come on home. I'd just pick one or two nets up. It would depend what I had in and I'd just float down. Nobody'd ever hear me or see me or nothing. But if they were laying for you, then they could catch you. Well, they were laying for me, and they caught me on that side of the river, because where you go is you usually find a bar -- either a sand bar or gravel bar -- and you park there and you fix your net out and take your fish out. That's when these guys caught me the first time and then a whole hell of a lot of times after that. They wouldn't take my canoe at that time, they wouldn't confiscate all your things. They'd take maybe one net or something, but they wouldn't take the canoe or anything. Then they start taking everything, taking the body and everything that we had. I fished all the time, and sneaking out and fishing. I fished right off the front of the house. Our house was right on the river. But they continued to arrest me up until 1950 and it was '54 when I got out of the Marine Corps and then after I got out, then we started to fish and going back to jail again, just a whole lot of things was happening then. But that was the "˜50s. Of course, the "˜50s wasn't a good time for Indian people. They were taking our reservations in other parts of the country, termination was going on strong throughout the United States and we were getting involved in all of this fighting termination, and so there was a lot of things happening. [Dwight] Eisenhower was president at the time and started to terminate all the tribes and they started relocation of Indians and sending them to Los Angeles and New York and wherever, Chicago and Seattle and everywhere. So all of them things were happening in our time. But we were still fishing on the river and still not even dreaming that we were going to be part of some big movement. The Civil Rights movement started happening in the '60s and then all of a sudden the Kennedys and all of the other things that happened throughout our time, my time. But taking part in all that and being there and understanding that we have to live a long time. These guys will die. Our strategy is United States Supreme Court guys, they'll die, Congress, they'll die, new guys will come along, Governors will die, Senators will die, bad guys. The bad guys will die. And will there be another bad guy? I hope not. I hope they'll be better understanding of our people. So that's how we keep going because...I always say, 'I'll outlive all these guys.' But when I'm gone and all of the people that we have that are my age and beyond or younger, they'll take our place and it'll be the same, our people, nothing will change. We will still have the treaty, we'll still have fighting to bring our salmon back now that they're gone and clean water and the principles of life and the food chain that has to sustain all of us. This is what it's all about. I'll never quit doing what I do. Everybody says, 'Have you got a retirement?' 'Hell, no, I ain't got a retirement. I live right here. I'm not going anywhere.' If things go to hell I can go down here and dig clams and catch fish and flounders and they're still there. That's what I do and that's being an Indian, just being an Indian and try to bring people together to work together. That's the only way that the salmon and the water and the environment, the habitat's all going to work if we bring people together and people come together to try to find a balance for the salmon. If we can't find a balance in the middle of the road for the salmon, then they'll be gone. You can't fight and be way over there, you can't fight and be way over there. You've got to be, find a balance and keep moving forward and try to make it better every day. And so that's a principle of life that I have to live on and even though sometimes we go to court, the State of Washington vs. the Indian tribes or the United States government taking our side. That's not bad. That's something that we have to do. We have to get a principle of law before we can all continue to move down the road or something."

The importance of outside support and coalitions

Billy Frank:

"One of my old friends is gone now. His name was Ralph Johnson at the University of Washington, a professor. We have them in Portland and we have them all along the United States, our professors that fight for treaty rights and he said, 'You have a treaty, don't ever let the United States government or anybody such as Slade Gorton, Senator Slade Gorton...that treaty is there and they better respect it and not abrogate it, even the United States Supreme Court and Congress and so on.' So that was a big part of us being educated and understanding what we were doing in this big fight. The fight never ends. The fight's going on today. It's just a war between a culture and them. There was good people that didn't like what the State of Washington was doing and the United States government was doing and what the dams were doing and what was going on with just the environment. So there was coalitions all over and there was people at the universities and there was doctors and there was people just in every profession was thinking of getting involved. Certainly we'd have never made it without them. You can't...with all your power and all your community and everybody staying together -- you can't fight that battle alone."

The Sohappy vs. Smith case in 1969 led to Judge Robert Belloni's ruling of a "˜fair and equitable share of fish for tribes', which influenced later debates on 'allocations.' Years after the ruling, David Sohappy, Sr. served a sentence in federal prison for selling fish out of season, suffering several strokes in prison.

Billy Frank:

"It's an ongoing fight, a continual ongoing fight, even in the year 2000 now. There's just been so many things that I...David [Sohappy], my partner, my friend, I went over and testified for him over at Yakima. They killed David. The United States people killed David Sohappy, one of our own people that wanted to be left alone to just be able to harvest salmon down on the Columbia River, and what in the hell is...that is not a big thing, of 2,000 or 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 salmon a year, whatever for this community. What is so big about that? They made such a big thing and they put him in prison and killed him, trade and everything. And way back in 1800s, they talked about trade, they talked about commerce for the Indian people and we had it then. We had it way before Lewis and Clark ever came. We had trade with big baskets of salmon and trading with these ships and everything. Here in 1968 and up until our time it was, anytime that we had anything to do with the economy they didn't want us to be part of it, even blaming us for killing the salmon or whatever it might be, even though we had judges on the Columbia River as well as in our district over here that ruled for us and continue to rule for us today and thank them. We never win anything. It's sad but true. Even the United States Supreme Court were hanging on today with the five-to-four decision for the tribes on sovereignty and they're still ruling for us, thank goodness. We're just hanging on by our teeth when it comes to law. But I think the Sohappy case and other cases on the Columbia River were positive cases and they set a precedent for the United States to uphold the sovereignty of tribes. The allocation can't work if we go back to the turn of the century because there was a lot of fish, 20 or 30 million salmon in the Columbia River. Now there's three million, very little fish. So that allocation...but they looked at the tribes over here and they said the tribes have to have an allocation and they looked at the non-Indian and they cut him way down. So out of all of that fighting and law and trying to...and winning, something good comes out of that but you look at it and we're still fighting. They are still raping the water. They want potatoes, they want grapes, that's more important than salmon and they use the water, the irrigation. Eighty percent is going to them guys for potatoes and whatever they grow irrigating. What goes for the fish? They've left...they've completely sold the fish out, the United States as well as the states and the political people. Survival, survival is what we're talking about, survival of us Indian people and of our salmon and our food chain out there and our whales and our eagles and all of our fur bearing animals and everything. We're talking about all of those things and our mountains and our trees. That's what we're talking about."

Judge George Boldt and the courtroom scene in U.S. v. Washington, when Boldt ruled that Indian fishers are entitled to half the harvestable catch of salmon

Billy Frank:

"In this one particular case on a day there's standing room only in this place. You had to get there early to get into the courtroom, and for 70 days it went on like that. This day this lady over in Suquamish, lives across the bay from Seattle, she was up on the stand, and Slade Gorton and his prosecutors were there for the State of Washington, they were asking questions on everyone. Grandma Haler was up there and she was, the judge was sitting here and she's sitting here and she...they started asking her some questions about some of the things that went on and she couldn't understand them so she started talking Indian to dad, which dad was...she's sitting here and dad's way over there and she started talking Indian to, our language to dad and dad answered her back. And boy, the prosecutor jumped up and objected. 'We can't have this going on in the courtroom,' and all this. Judge Boldt overruled these guys and said, 'If she wants to clarify what you're saying, she can talk to grandpa.' And this is...that was a recognition of our language, a recognition of us -- what the judge just did -- and an understanding person that's a federal judge, conservative judge that understood what we were saying and what we were doing and trying to get the information out to him so he could make a decision. It was a lot of things like that that the judge did in that courtroom, that he had respect for all of our people. He had respect for all of our people, and just things that he did on his own as a human being in what he did. There's other judges that did similar things, but that's one of the things that I don't forget because when he rendered the decision in '74, I got to take him around to all the tribes. He had retired and all the tribes had wanted to give him dinners so I took him to all the tribes. Judge Boldt is well and alive even though he's gone, that case and the respect that he had for all of our people, our grandmas, our grandpas and our uncles and our aunts and our children. It was just...we respected him so much and we gave him that big welcome when we all took him and had big dinners. Every one of these reservations did something for him. And also Senator Gorton, then Attorney General of the State of Washington, was telling the people of the State of Washington that, 'You don't have to abide by that ruling because we're going to get it overturned when it gets to the United States Supreme Court,' which it did get to the United States Supreme Court in 1979 and they upheld it. So all of that was telling the people, the people of the state to proceed as usual, go out and rape the fishes you were doing and go out and fish illegal even though we have regulations. And so they were fishing illegal out here. In 1980, a task force was formed and I testified that there was lights from Canada to South Sound here, just non-Indians fishing night and day out in these waters raping the salmon and they did. And the State of Washington let them do it. Now Judge Boldt brought them back in court and took their sovereignty away. He took the State of Washington...Slade Gorton come in and he said, 'You're that far from being held in contempt of court. As of today...' Now there was shooting going on in the water, they were shooting at each other and just a whole lot of bad things happening in the State of Washington on commercial fishery. And so he told them at that time that, 'You no longer manage the salmon. The federal court...I manage the salmon. National Marine Fisheries and the Coast Guard will immediately take over out here in these waters.'"

Resistance, hostility and racism after the Boldt decision

Billy Frank:

"Racism, they were putting sugar in our gas tanks and in 1974 we had a gas war. You guys are too young to know this, but there was a gas war in the United States and nobody would gas our boats up out here. They'd gas all the non-Indian boats, they wouldn't gas the Indian boats. So I'm out here representing the tribes in this office and, 'What the hell is going on?' Our fishermen were, they couldn't buy gas out here on the water. And so that's racism at it's best going on into the fisheries management and everything else. So all of these things and it was hard feelings going every direction and they were shooting at each other and there was every kind of thing happening in the northwest. But we were still managing it, we were here, the tribes were here with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and all of our tribes and we were still managing putting a comprehensive plan together like the judge ordered."

The tribes are involved on every front -- the mindset that it takes to persevere

Billy Frank:

"Down on the river on my canoe I always thought, 'Jesus, I wish I had somebody that was protecting us.' I'd look at the State of Washington over there and they had a fishery department, they were saying they were managing, but they were always mismanaging it seemed like, and they had attorney general and they had their government doing what they do. But nobody was protecting us, nobody was protecting the salmon, nobody was protecting the watersheds and nobody was protecting our treaty. But the tribes are unique, very unique in as far as being the best and the best at management, the best at doing whatever they do and always being the protector or the one that speaks for whether it's the grass or whether it's the river or whether it's the mud out there or whether it's the clean air or whatever it might be, it's always bringing common sense to what's all around us, whether we're there or over there or where it might be. I've always here we are today, we have a laboratory back here with doctors and how did we get there, we started out with maybe three or four people here and all of a sudden we have a range of professional people, the highest quality people there is down in Oregon and wherever we might be. The tribes have their own management going and we coordinate among all of us. We coordinate from there over to here and down there and the Pacific Coast and Canada. We're in the international treaty. When we started with the treaty, U.S.-Canada International Treaty, they were intercepting all of our fish coming down here. And we couldn't get in the door, we the Indian tribes could not get in the door in U.S.-Canada. They wouldn't even let us sit on any of the panels or anything, any government position. U.S. Fish and Wildlife was our representative, United States Commerce was our representative and we said, 'No, we've got to be our own representative.'"

The relationship of the Nisqually Tribe with the Army and Fort Lewis

Billy Frank:

"They managed that country like if it was ours. They don't harvest and clear-cut and do all the crazy things. We know that their mission is to train troops and we work together. They do not drive the tanks over the rivers and the streams anymore. They got cement bridges built. So these are positive things that we can live together and work together and share the watershed. So that's kind of where we are and that makes me feel good."

In a battle over dams, Judge Stephen Grossman took testimony about the conditions of the Nisqually River from 100-year-old Willie Frank.

Billy Frank:

"We'd go to Seattle every year to the federal building in Seattle and so I'd take dad every year. We'd go up there and we'd stay and we'd have hearings for two weeks. But two particular days I'd have to take dad up and all the lawyers from the City of Tacoma and all the lawyers from the City of Centralia and the State of Washington and the tribes and the Federal Energy Commission with their lawyers and our judge presiding over it. And so we started to put the watershed together and getting in-stream flows and so on and so forth and the plan...this is the Nisqually plan going into effect. And so Judge Grossman, my great friend and I think the world of him, we were up there, dad now had reached 100 years old and I told the judge that, 'Dad can no longer, I can't bring dad up anymore. We've got to park and walk up these stairs and then the elevator and whatever.' I said, 'We're not going to bring him up anymore, dad's going to stay home.' And so he said this in front of everybody and put it into the record and he said, 'Well, Willie Frank, Dad, Grandpa can't come up here anymore. He's 100 years old now,' I don't know what he said and then he said, 'But I want to know if anybody has a problem with us...we're going to move the courtroom down to grandpa's house on the Nisqually River tomorrow morning at 10:00. Now is there any objections?' Nobody will object to a judge and so, 'Court will preside in grandpa's house tomorrow morning at 10:00.' So everybody come from Seattle clean to grandpa's house at the Landing and the Federal Energy Commission and Judge Grossman, they held court right there."

Billy Frank speaks about transcending past grievances, focusing on the future and what can be done.

Billy Frank:

"I think back, way back to Chief Joseph and him saying, 'I've got to quit fighting and I've got to gather my people up.' To me, everything is survival, everything is survival not for me so much, it's my kids and our aunts and uncles and our relatives that are all out here. Everything that we do is's for survival of everything that's around us. So I know the politics, I know who sits on these task forces, they're here today, the President appointed them in 1980, they're still here, I work with them. There's bad guys and there's good guys. You take advantage of whoever you have in this picture that we're in to work to bring everything together. I think that we're on the good side, we're not on the bad side and that's a big difference in life when you can always say that you're on the good side. I think that...everybody says, 'Well, how can you keep going with these guys?' There's a change every day and there's a change for the bad and then there's a change for the good and to try to find a balance out of that for our people, we just hang in there long enough things get better and they might get worse in the meantime, but then they start getting better and getting better means that you have new thinkers coming up, you have new children coming up, you have new...our people are still there and they're still ready to sit down and work, they're still down in the coves, they're still up the rivers, they're still along the Pacific Coast and they're still out on the prairies. You've got to go see them people and you've got to go take part in their energy and their ceremonies and things in Canada or wherever it might be. That's a whole thing in life if you can see that and take part in it."

The state of Nisqually watershed in 2001

Billy Frank:

"The watershed is in fairly good shape. We have a lot of good programs going on it. Certainly the Nisqually Tribe manages the watershed and along with the state and a whole bunch of environmental people and people working together and local governments as well as the counties and on both sides of the river and the Army. And I think the watershed is a workable watershed and the farmers and the ag [agricultural] people, everybody on that watershed participates, so that's a good thing, the hydroelectric dams and all of us. Even though sometimes we go through these droughts and everything, we work together to try to find a balance and that's the most important thing. Now our salmon, our steelhead is pretty well gone, they're wild steelhead. We don't know why they have never come back. There are just a lot of things that happen. Our pink salmon are getting healthier and that's a wild stock and our chum salmon are not as healthy as they used to be, but we're still holding our own on those, them are all wild. And then the rest, the Chinook and the coho and sockeye and other things that we've got are artificial and so we have to take advantage of that and try to work the wild and the artificial together and we're working on that every day and it's a continual thing that we work on. But that watershed is a workable watershed with all the people that's involved on it. I think we've been able to be observed out there by the United States as kind of a model watershed to try to bring people together to look at it and try to design other watersheds."

How to be a leader on the local and national level

Billy Frank:

"Well, the tribes are the ones that allow me to do that. The tribes, I don't do anything to hurt the tribes and I don't do anything to hurt any of our people politically or any way. I'm always trying to help wherever I can and support and bring them together. If there's a conflict of any kind between other tribes or anything I try to help and make some sense out of it. But the tribes allow me to basically speak with one voice. We have our commission and all of our tribes belong to them and they all...we pass resolutions and we pass initiatives to go forward to Congress or wherever we might be. It's like our Columbia River people and our California people, we try to all work together in this form of management for natural resources and support one another."

How to work with people who think the choices are either/or, fish or power, salmon or farmers

Billy Frank:

"Maybe some of these people you can't work with, but you don't give up on them. You don't give up on them and you don't tell them to go to hell because you're just going to have to get the best of them by doing what you do. You can talk to them in a forum or you can talk to them one on one and you can make them feel bad, you use every damn trick you've got in the book. You can make them ashamed of themselves. You can get down and dirty with these people and you can talk about money, you can talk about who the hell they are and you can talk about where we was and where we are today and where in the hell are we going if we follow your route. You educate these people as you talk."

The importance of educating people, from tribes to Congress

Billy Frank:

"A big part of it now is all education. I could be speaking all the time, there's no stop to that, at the universities or the kids down here in the grade school and I do that. But a lot of it is testifying in front of the United States Congress, it's getting hearings throughout our country, it's trying to educate the courts to be part of the watershed: 'Spend your money on the watershed, that's an investment that's going to always be there.' It's the type of things that you can actually make happen with the position that you're in, to make them think about what has to be done. But education is the biggest part of trying to turn this big ship the right way; even our own people, educating our own people of the direction that we all have to go. It's a big job and will always be there."

Wa He Lut School, the dream of Maiselle Bridges

Billy Frank:

"It was her dream to have an Indian school at the Landing. She's my oldest sister. In 1974 the school was born in a little one-room building we built and then the Army was across the street from us. The little road was right here but the Army owned this piece of land. So on September of '74 we moved the schoolhouse, we just moved it over on the Army land and then we built our school over there. Before the general or anybody could know what was going on we had a school and about 20 kids going to school over there. Pretty soon the general come down one day and we were blacktopping the road going into the school, it was all mud and everything so we were blacktopping. He said, 'Billy, what are you doing?' And I said, 'Oh, we're blacktopping this road.' And so he said, 'You can't do this, this is Army land.' I said, 'Well, you never did run our pigs off on this side or our horses and so now you're going to run our school children off?' And so I went to...Senator [Warren] Magnuson was a senator of the United States at that time, and Senator Magnuson was our senator here in the State of Washington, I said, 'I've got a school down here that is on Army property and the Army wants me to move off and I'm not moving, all of us, my sister and all of us.' So we negotiated with the Army and so now we have that property. The Army deeded it over to dad and the Landing and it's being held there for our school purposes. Now we have like 130 kids going there. Senator Gorton was a big part of making sure that that school was rebuilt after the flood. The flood of 1998 was this big flood that we all along the Pacific Coast here, it was a terrible flood. It devastated our Nisqually River and everything. It took our school our and everything but we built a new school and that's it in that picture, but he was a big part along with Norm Dixon, Congressman Norm Dixon and all of our delegation from the State of Washington. They made sure that that school is still well and healthy and is funded. We just really take pride in these kids."

The message Billy Frank would like to leave

Billy Frank:

"We're going to survive and we're going to be healthy. With the help of all the neighbors, of all the medicines that are out there, the new technology is going to be better, the technology that's going to put the dams out of business. There won't be no more fight over dams; they'll be all gone. There'll be new technology to find power and so on and so forth. There'll be new technology to take these things that are destroying our environment out there, that destroyed some of our bays, these big giant plants that are put in poisons the water and everything, they'll be gone. They'll be gone. Why will they be gone? Because there's technology now that it's not feasible to have these dams any more, it's not feasible to have these kind of plants that destroy our little cities and smell them up and everything. These are things that if you're looking at life and you're a manager you look at way down the road, things might be bad today but how are we going to get better. Are we going to get better down the road? Yeah, we're going to get better."

The Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times series and accompanying curricula are for the educational programs of tribes, schools and colleges. For usage authorization, to place an order or for further information, call or write Institute for Tribal Government – PA, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon, 97207-0751. Telephone: 503-725-9000. Email:

[Native music]

The Institute for Tribal Government is directed by a Policy Board of 23 tribal leaders,
Hon. Kathryn Harrison (Grand Ronde) leads the Great Tribal Leaders project and is assisted by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, Director and Kay Reid, Oral Historian

Videotaping and Video Assistance
Chuck Hudson, Jeremy Fivecrows and John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Green Fire Productions

Special Thanks to Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Charles Wilkinson, Author
"Messages from Frank's Landing"
University of Washington Press, Publisher

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is also supported by the non-profit Tribal Leadership Forum, and by grants from:
Spirit Mountain Community Fund
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Chickasaw Nation
Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Jayne Fawcett, Ambassador
Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from
Portland State University
Qwest Foundation
Pendleton Woolen Mills
The U.S. Dept. of Education
The Administration for Native Americans
Bonneville Power Administration
And the U.S. Dept. of Defense

This program is not to be reproduced without the express written permission of the Institute for Tribal Government

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government

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