Who is he?
Called “the most important Indian,” Hank
Adams orchestrated fish-ins that brought
Marlon Brando to the Washington State
Capitol; wrote the famous 20 Points
proposal during the Trail of Broken Treaties;
negotiated an end to the Indian occupation
of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in
Washington D.C., and represented the
White House during the siege at Wounded
Knee, South Dakota. For his tireless
activism, Adams received the Abraham
Lincoln Award, the Jefferson Award and the
American Indian Visionary Award.
Henry Lyle Adams is a Montana native
who moved to Taholah, on the Washington
coast, after his parents divorced. In high
school he was student body president, an
honor student and a standout athlete. The
Assiniboine-Sioux spent only two years
at the University of Washington, yet later
used his encyclopedic knowledge of Indian
law to serve as lay counsel to the tribes.
A behind-the-scenes strategist for treaty
fishing rights, Adams used media and
celebrity to sway public opinion. In 1971,
vigilantes on the Puyallup River shot the
activist in the stomach. “I can’t identify
him. But hell, I’ve seen him before—in a
thousand taverns, in a thousand churches,
on a thousand juries,” Adams said. Tribal
activism culminated in a landmark court
ruling for the tribes in 1974.