Note: This story was published in 2012
Billy Frank Jr. is a fisherman, and when he dies he hopes that's how history remembers
him. He is not a casual angler who passes sunny afternoons in search of tall tales
and kings. Fishing is part of Billy's DNA. In a society fascinated by advancing
technology, the Nisqually Indian will take you back to nature. He'll show you the
great rivers where the salmon run, and he'll tell you the story of his mysterious
Decades ago, in a far different America, salmon wars erupted on Northwest rivers.
Unknown tribal members held up Indian treaties and took a stand for fishing rights.
One was a Nisqually Indian named Billy Frank. "I wasn't the Billy Frank that I am
now," the Nisqually tribal leader told reporters in 1984. "I was a bitter person."
Says friend Tom Keefe, "When I look at Billy Frank, and I guess I know more about
him than most people, I can say there is a guy who decided that he could change
the world by changing himself."
Frank rose from skirmishes on the riverbank and survived personal trials to become
a visionary leader known across the world. Court battles over fishing rights continue.
Frank's message is to protect the salmon, still struggling to survive the highways
of the sea.