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Gov. Jay Inslee: Washington celebrates 50 years since Boldt decision

The triumphant story of Billy Frank Jr. and Tribal efforts to affirm their right to fish will be told to a national audience once a statue of Billy Frank Jr. is sent to the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Credit: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee e-newsletter.

Washington celebrates 50 years since Boldt decision

From the Office of Gov. Jay Inslee e-newsletter:

With the stroke of a pen, the Puyallup, Nisqually, Steilacoom and Squaxin Island tribes ceded their ancestral lands in 1854 in the Treaty of Medicine Creek. Among the few meager concessions the Tribes got back was a perpetual right to take fish at all usual and accustomed grounds. It was a promise soon broken.

By the 1880s, state game wardens often arrested Tribal fishermen for exercising their federal right and ancient custom, ignoring court decisions affirming that right. Among those arrested in 1945 was a 14-year-old Billy Frank Jr. Frank would dedicate his life to the cause, organizing “fish-in” protests and other acts of civil disobedience over decades of activism. By the 1970s, the escalating “Fish Wars” aroused national attention and even celebrity participation.

In 1974, the federal government sued the state in United States v. Washington, alleging that state fishing regulations infringed on the terms of federal treaties with the Tribes. Judge George Hugo Boldt heard the case and ruled in favor of the federal government and tribal fisherman, permanently deciding the issue. Tribes would fish as they always had.

Fifty years later, Tribes cherish that right. A statue of Billy Frank Jr. will represent Washington state and regional Tribes at the National Statuary Hall inside the United States Capitol. And debates continue over the health of salmon populations, though in a more unified spirit than ever.

On the 50th anniversary of the Boldt decision, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “Rather than being pitted against one another, Tribes and the state government have since collaborated on nation-leading efforts to save our iconic salmon. The history of this case provides many lessons that should be taught continually. Most importantly, it teaches that we as Washingtonians are always capable of doing better, and we are more likely to succeed when we work together for a more just society.”

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Posted by Steve on February 17, 2024 at 12:31 am | Permalink

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