Billy Frank Jr.: Nobody knew what the treaty was about

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NWIFC Chairman and Nisqually tribal member Billy Frank Jr.:

This is all an education of who we are. It started a long time ago. It started before me and before my parents. It started before all of our moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas. They knew what they had to do. They lived here, they never moved. This is their home, and that’s our food that comes up that river every day.

You take our food away and our water, and we might have to do something like taking over the Game Department building in Olympia, Washington. The night before, the state Game Department came down and took all of our gear from the Nisqually River. They took all of our boats, confiscating everything. Hauled them off into their little backyard in Olympia, the Game Department building.

We have to feed our family like everybody else. Who do we go to? Do I go to Congress? Do I go to the president? Do I go to the governor?

Nobody listens to you because you’re an Indian. You have a treaty with the United States and they don’t know what the hell that means. They’ve never implemented it. Never taught it in their schools, so nobody knows what the treaty is about, until we come along and start talking about our five treaty areas.

That took a long time to make that happen, and we’re still doing it today. We’re having this great celebration. We’re talking to our young people, telling them we’ve got to remember what we’re all about.

We’ll die for that clean water. We’ll die for that salmon. We’ll die for everything that flies. We’ll die for that mountain. We’ll die for those trees. That’s what every Indian in this country talks about.