David E. Wilkins, a University of Minnesota professor and an author of several books on tribes, writes recently on Billy Frank Jr.’s life and work:
Billy was hailed as a genuine leader, as one who has always placed the needs of the indigenous nations, the earth and her waterways, and the many species we are intimately linked to, above his own. As evidence of this, this event featured the unveiling of the Billy Frank Jr. Endowment for Salmon, a fund that will aid in the enhancement of salmon and their habitat indefinitely.
As I listened to all those warm and impassioned testimonials, expressed with the warm and sincere laughter that is intrinsic to such occasions, and feasted on the fine foods laid out before us, I was reminded of two other men whose lives and actions followed a shared trajectory with Billy’s: Vine Deloria, Jr. and Hank Adams. Vine, arguably the greatest native scholar, and Hank, arguably the most gifted native strategist and peacemaker, were and are ultimately tied to the peoples and the treaty and fishing rights struggle that has long defined the Northwest.