“The folks must know the reality,” he used to say, by the use of explaining an 1854 treaty between the tribes of Puget Sound and the American authorities that assured tribal fishing rights for eternity. The fact — that ought to be the crucible, as we glance anew at our historical past.
Lincoln was not good, and Billy Frank Jr. by no means claimed ethical infallibility.
However of their public lives, these males moved the nation to greater floor. The identical can’t be stated of the Accomplice president, Jefferson Davis, a person who was indicted on a cost of treason, and one other traitor, his vp, Alexander Stephens — each of whom are nonetheless in Statuary Corridor, even after waging battle on america. Mr. Stephens stated the Confederacy was based “upon the nice fact that the Negro shouldn’t be equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his pure and regular situation.”
That pair ought to be a part of the lately eliminated statue of Robert E. Lee at nighttime closet of our historical past.
Marcus Whitman, the person Frank will change within the Capitol after a bipartisan majority of the Washington State Legislature voted for the swap, was additionally not somebody to look as much as. Mr. Whitman was murdered by Cayuse Indians in 1847, close to current day Walla Walla, within the midst of a deadly measles outbreak.
“Whitman was a mediocre man of his period, not a hero,” stated Blaine Harden, writer of terrific new ebook, “Homicide on the Mission,” a deconstruction of the drained falsehood of the Whitman story.
The outgoing statue of Mr. Whitman in buckskin and a Bible is a totem to the Massive Lie that he saved the Oregon Nation from the British, a founding fable of the Pacific Northwest. “It was the type of lie that many People nonetheless love — easy, hero-driven, action-packed, ordained by God,” Mr. Harden instructed me. “Changing Marcus Whitman with Billy Frank Jr. is nice symbolic justice.”
I went all the way down to the wildlife refuge named for Mr. Frank the opposite day to get a little bit booster shot of nature. The sky was crowded with bald eagles and the estuary thick with red-flowering currants and peripatetic hummingbirds— all throughout the noise of Interstate 5, about 50 miles south of Seattle.
However I additionally needed to summon the spirit of the person I knew as simply Billy — his guts, his knowledge, his unbroken large heartedness. “Being with Billy is like floating on a gentle, simple river,” his spouse Sue Crystal, who died of most cancers in 2001, as soon as stated. “He’s the happiest individual I do know.”
That’s what I keep in mind about him — the enjoyment in pursuit of justice.
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Timothy Egan (@nytegan) is a contributing opinion author who covers the setting, the American West and politics. He’s a winner of the Nationwide Guide Award and writer, most lately, of “A Pilgrimage to Eternity.”