The city of Bellingham has renamed Indian Street for longtime Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank Jr., who passed away May 5, 2014.

Bellingham council members Roxanne Murphy and Terry Bornemann were instrumental in renaming Indian Street for Billy Frank Jr.

Bellingham council members Roxanne Murphy and Terry Bornemann were instrumental in renaming Indian Street for Billy Frank Jr.

Bellingham council member Terry Bornemann proposed the change in June, after briefly considering renaming a street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The idea evolved when someone pointed out that the area’s civil rights struggle had more to do with Native American issues.

“It got me thinking she was very right,” Bornemann said. “It is more appropriate to name a street in honor of Coast Salish people.”

The council approved the change unanimously.

During the city’s Coast Salish Day celebration in October, Lummi tribal member Candice Wilson thanked the city for naming a street after Billy.

“He was an honorable man, a true warrior in his own right,” Wilson said. “This is an honorable moment for the family. We thank you, the city of Bellingham, for naming this street after him.”

The first sign was installed beside Laurel Park, near what Bornemann described as the gateway to Western Washington University.

City Council member Roxanne Murphy, a Nooksack tribal member, said that the name change is an opportunity to pass along Billy Frank Jr.’s teachings.

“Children will ask their parents who Billy Frank Jr. was,” she said.

Elden Hillaire, chairman of the Lummi Fisheries Commission, agreed that the location was fitting, because of Western’s Huxley College of the Environment.

“I just love Huxley and the things they do over there protecting Mother Earth,” he said. “Billy taught me something new every day. He was more than protecting Mother Earth; he was serving the world, and that’s how we really need to recognize him.”