Treaty Rights Warrior Walks On, Leaves a Lasting Legacy

Guy McMinds, of the Quinault Indian Nation, walked on July 9. He was a warrior for Native American treaty rights.

Guy McMinds, of the Quinault Indian Nation, was laid to rest July 13 at Quinault Indian Nation Tribal Cemetery after a funeral ceremony that drew hundreds of family and friends from near and far.

Many expressed admiration for McMinds and said his influence reached tribes across the country. Ray Fryberg, director of fish and wildlife for the Tulalip Tribes, recounted a story from the early ‘80s when state officials tried making tribal officials sit in the back of the room during a meeting on natural resources management. Fryberg remembered that it was McMinds who grabbed steel chairs and slammed them down at the head table for tribal leaders, saying that was where they belonged.

“Wherever Guy went and whoever he was talking to, he would not let the tribes take a back seat to anyone,” Fryberg said in a release.

McMinds was an active leader fighting for Indian fishing rights—a fight he helped win when the Boldt Decision was made in 1974, which gave tribes in Washington state the right to half the annual fishing catch.

He was instrumental in enacting the 1980 Salmon and Steelhead Conservation and Enhancement Act, which recognized tribal co-management of resources in the Pacific Northwest.

In the ‘60s, McMinds obtained funding to organize the Quinalt Department of Natural Resources allowing the tribe to implement innovative technology in salmon hatcheries, aquaculture and stream rehabilitation.

“I can hear his fist banging down on the table even now, and when he did that people knew he meant business,” said Billy Frank Jr., chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, in a release. “When the actions he took lead to the closure of Quinault’s 23 miles of beach, people knew Guy meant business. Now you find razor clams on that 23 miles; you sure don’t find them on the beaches managed by the state. But our journey isn’t over. It’s our job to keep working, as Guy would want us to, and bring the salmon back, get the poisons out of the water and work together in the process. That is the legacy that this great friend has left us.”

McMinds graduated from Moclips High School in Moclips, Washington in 1955 and served two years in the U.S. Army. In 1966, he received a fisheries science degree from the University of Washington before returning to work for the Quinalt Indian Nation. He served for many years as the nation’s fisheries manager and natural resources director. In 2010, he retired as advisor to the president of the Quinalt Indian Nation.

“This was a man who knew what it meant to be humble and assertive at the same time,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. “Guy’s life influenced Native people throughout the world, and his presence would have been welcome just about anywhere where people care about human rights and dignity… His wisdom will always be with us, and we will always be thankful for the many contributions he brought to our lives.”

McMinds walked on July 9 and is survived by his wife of 45 years, Ruth, four siblings, eight adopted children, and 13 grandchildren.