Evans: Billy Frank Jr., a living symbol of courage and reconciliation

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It is with great personal pleasure that I write to applaud your selection of Billy Frank Jr. to receive the first annual American Indian Visionary Award. I was governor of the State of Washington when the U.S. v. Washington was handed down by federal judge George Boldt in 1974. That decision culminated several years of protest by the tribes in our state, led in large measure by Billy, who was arrested so many times that he became a fixture in our county jails. He was also a familiar sight in the federal courthouse where he and his family did much of the work that finally led to the reaffirmation of tribal treaty-protected fishing rights.

As governor at the time, I can tell you that the decision was not the end of the controversy. It's no exaggeration to say that there were many who didn't like the decision, and who let their feelings be known in the public arena.

Through the years, the controversy has continued. But the spirit of Billy Frank Jr. has been strong. He has always been willing and able to stand up for the rights of the Indian people. But he has also been a champion of reconciliation. He has always seen the value of cooperative relations between the tribes and the state and federal governments, as well as any government or entity willing to work together in natural resource management.

He provided professional a well as personable leadership in the development of many cooperative programs, such as the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the Timber-Fish-Wildlife Agreement, and the Forests and Fish Initiative. His efforts have led to greater understanding and cooperative management in watershed planning processes, shellfish management, water management and inter-racial cooperative efforts.

Billy has been an educator through thick and thin. He has starred in hundreds of documentaries and public service announcements, and produced thousands of articles and letters. He has spoken to countless groups, testified dozens of times in Congress and accompanied high ranking officials, youth groups and anyone else you can imagine on trips to his beloved river, the Nisqually. On that river he has been instrumental in establishing a land use plan integrating the efforts of every owner and manager. Now the Nisqually, which runs from Mt. Rainier to the Puget Sound, is one of the most pristine rivers in the world.

Billy Frank Jr. is the sum of all his achievements. But he is so much more. Billy is a man of unquestionable integrity who represents the ages and who stands as living testament to the historic quality of the land. He is a symbol of the bridge that connects our yesterdays with our tomorrows. And does it so very well.

Billy has received many honors - from government at the local, state, national, international and tribal levels. He has been honored by the environmental community with the Common Cause Award. He has been honored on a national scale with the Albert Schweitzer Award for Humanitarianism. But I venture to say that this honor, this American Indian Visionary Award, ranks with the best of them in his heart because it represents a statement of recognition by tribes from across the entire nation.

As Governor of Washington State and as a U.S. Senator I worked closely with Billy, who was a valued advisor on many important issues. We still work together many years later on those issues we both cherish.

I sincerely thank you for so recognizing my long-time friend.

Daniel J. Evans currently is chairman of Daniel J. Evans Associates consulting firm. He has headed this firm since 1989. Previously he served as U.S. Senator from Washington state, 1983 - 1989, president of Evergreen State College 1977 - 1983, and Governor of the State of Washington 1965 - 1977. He serves on the corporate boards of Cray, Inc., Flow International, Western Wireless, Archimedes Technology Group and Costco. Evans also serves on the Board of Regents of the University of Washington.