Hundreds gathered Tuesday, July 19 to dedicate the renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge including tribal, local, state and federal leaders.
His son, Willie Frank, told The Olympian that it was a fitting honor for his dad, who founded the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and served as the organization’s chairman for more than 30 years.
“This place is very powerful in medicine for all of us as Indian people,” Willie Frank told The Olympian. “You know, for him, he’d come down here and walk along the delta all the time, no matter how he felt. … To be on the river was medicine for him.”
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge/Visit Olympia
The renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
Renaming the refuge was introduced by in a bill by Rep. Denny Heck, D-Vancouver in May 2015. The bill, titled Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act, also made the location of the signing of the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty a national historic site and required the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to involve the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Squaxin Island Tribes in the development of educational materials for the national historic site.
President Barack Obama signed the bill in December 2015, officially changing the name.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
A wetland in the renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
“When Billy Frank Jr. told his story, he was a fisherman trying to do what was right. But in the story of our state, he is a leader who inspired a movement for justice, and dedicated his life to collaborating with others in order to safeguard our environment for everyone. When visitors come to the wildlife refuge, I want them to sense the spirit of Billy Frank Jr. and the work of all of the tribes to defend and preserve our beautiful land and resources. Without that context, the background and history of our area gets lost. This is a way to preserve not just the refuge, but the stories surrounding it,” Heck said in a statement last year.
Heck told the Seattle PI on July 19 that a person dies twice, physically the first time and later when their words and contributions are forgotten. “We rename this refuge to keep Billy’s words alive,” he said Tuesday.
Steve Bloom/The Olympian
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell greets 92-year-old Maiselle Bridges, the sister of Billy Frank Jr., during Tuesday’s celebration of the renaming of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge for Frank. Tribal member Hank Adams listens.