On June 1st, a dedication ceremony was held in Olympia for Billy Frank Jr. Place, which features 43 new affordable apartments serving homeless veterans, homeless young adults, disabled individuals, and other members of the community. Located at 318 State Ave NE.
Friends, family, members of the Nisqually Tribe, dignitaries, and housing supporters gathered to honor and remember Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr., renowned for his grassroots campaign for tribal fishing rights in Washington. Billy, a member of the Nisqually Tribe, was chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 25 years until his passing in 2014. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.
Willie Frank: “My father fought his whole life, not just for the Nisqually, not just for native people, but for everybody here in Washington. To have a building named for him here in the state capitol is truly an honor for my family and the Nisqually people. My dad has been honored a lot since he died, and I think he’d laugh about it because he didn’t live the life he lived for recognition but because it was what was in his heart.”
Speakers reminisced about both Frank’s tenacious activism and his irascible sense of humor. Doors behind the stage kept blowing open and several speakers paused to acknowledge the spirit of Billy entering the room.
Congressman Denny Heck: “I am lucky beyond measure to have called Billy a friend for many decades and am grateful that this building was named for him. I am going to make a request of you in the spirit of Billy. I’m a little depressed because I just watched the President of the United States make us become only the third country on the face of the planet to not commit to the Paris Climate Accords. If there was anything Billy stood for it was taking care of mother earth so it could take care of us. Cool, clean water! I’m asking you, every time you walk or drive by this place, to take a moment to remember just what Billy fought for. What can we do? I get asked this every day. Billy never gave up. He was arrested 59 times and he never once gave up, and went from being a radical protestor to becoming the great uniter. Let this building remind us that we should never give up.”
State Representative Beth Doglio: “This building is more than concrete and steel and walls and floors and ceilings. It’s a stable home for many in our community who haven’t had that. That’s what can happen when we have a vision and a partnership amongst so many different organizations and government institutions in our community. Thank you for the hard work you did to make this happen. Having a stable home is the only way that people can put their lives back together, and it is a basic human right! Invoking Billy Frank Jr. for this cause is spot on. Billy was nothing if not persistent. We need to be banging on our elected representatives’ doors every day and demanding that housing be a priority.”