She promised her sculptor husband before he died in 1982 that she would continue work on the controversial Crazy Horse Memorial being carved into the Black Hills. Now, Ruth Ziolkowski has passed on herself, on May 21, 2014 at age 87.
Ruth Carolyn Ross came to South Dakota’s Black Hills from Connecticut in 1948, according to the Associated Press. She and other youth had volunteered to help sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski begin the carving of the Crazy Horse Memorial. The two were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1950—he was 42 and she was 24, according to AP.
Korczak originally took on the project at the request of Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, who wrote a letter saying, “We would like the white man to know the red men have great heroes also.” He was referring to Mount Rushmore.
“He decided it would be well worth his life carving a mountain, not just as a memorial to the Indian people,” Ruth Ziolkowski told AP in 2006. “He felt by having the mountain carving, he could give back some pride. And he was a believer that if your pride is intact you can do anything in this world you want to do.”
The carving of Mount Rushmore into the sacred Black Hills was controversial and carving a likeness of Crazy Horse is no different, especially to Crazy Horse descendants who feel that Chief Standing Bear did not have the right to ask for such a thing to be done.
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Another Navajo hero has passed.... Read more
“I was the go-to-jail guy.” That’s how Billy Frank, Jr., (Nisqually) often described his role during the treaty fishing rights struggle in the Pacific Northwest of the 1960s and ‘70s.
Beginning as a teenager of 14, he went to jail more than 50 times and was arrested more than three times that. His canoes and gear were confiscated by the Washington fish and game police, who did not respect federal-tribal treaties, including the Medicine Creek Treaty that guaranteed fishing by the Nisqually, Puyallup and Squaxin Island Tribes near Olympia, Washington.
Frank lived 83 years, more than three decades after the worst of the state assaults against his family and others of the Franks Landing Indian Community. The Landing was at the center of the treaty fishing movement. It was built on a six-acre area assigned to his father, Willie Frank, Sr., after his land allotment was confiscated for Fort Lewis, the military base across the Nisqually River from the Landing.
Billy thought he would live to be more than 100, because his father had done the same. His elder sister and matriarch of the Landing, Maiselle Bridges is 90, and in addition to being a major treaty fishing strategist and activist, started the Landing’s groundbreaking Wah-He-Lute Indian School for treaty education. Willie Frank, Sr. and his children, the second and third generations from their 1854 Treaty, figured prominently in the activism and the legal battles to save the salmon.
Frank lived long enough to have his and others’ treaty activism validated in United States v. Washington, by a federal district judge in 1974, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1975 and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979. They chided the State of Washington for its recalcitrance to abide by treaties and held that tribal citizens could take 50 percent of the harvestable catch of anadromous fish, on and off-reservation at their usual and accustomed fishing places, for economic, subsistence and ceremonial purposes.
Although the fish wars of the 1960s and ‘70s were the most prominent, federal courts had decided treaty fishing cases in favor of the Native nations throughout the 1900s. The Supreme Court in 1979 made much of this, saying they’d seen this case five times that century and didn’t want to see it again. There was a volatile backlash to the decisions, and the Indian tribes were forced to litigate every aspect of their treaty fishing rights, including the state of the habitat and various other aquatic life, such as shellfish. These cases were also ruled in favor of the tribes.
The shellfish case was especially close to Frank and all the Nisqually People, because clams are integral to the Nisqually origin history. It was the last case in which Willie Frank Sr. was a witness; he was too elderly to go to the courthouse, so the judge held court at his home on the Landing. A creation totem—clan figures atop a giant clam, with myriad tiny Nisqually emerging from the shell— was both evidence in the case and a witness to the trial.
When Vine Deloria Jr., noted Standing Rock Sioux scholar/author, first talked about a traditional knowledge gathering on giants and little people, Frank jumped at the chance to host it at the Landing, and was eager to share the Nisqually origin history as little people. Frank, Deloria, Hank Adams (Assiniboine-Sioux), the Landing’s trusted advisor/organizer, and I convened there for what was to have been a treaties interview, but graduated to be a three-hour laugh fest.
Our “interview” started with Frank and Adams recalling enlisting Deloria as their lawyer in 1970 to go to New York City to meet with an Italian family that controlled a large share of the fish market there. The Medicine Creek Treaty Tribes and the Landing were being frozen out of the markets in the Pacific Northwest and needed a buyer for their salmon. The successful Deloria mission was a bright spot in the otherwise grim struggle, but even remembering the most serious moments of that time, Frank, Deloria and Adams were breathless from laughter.
After the Supreme Court decision and the first of many recognitions of Frank, the State of Washington returned one of his canoes, which is displayed at the Wah-He-Lute School and used as a teaching tool. Without Frank’s oral history and humor, the students are missing much of the treaty fishing story... Read more
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe released May 8 the following statement regarding the passing of Congressman James Oberstar soon after a funeral mass an... Read more
Billy Frank Jr.’s funeral was less a time of mourning and more a time of celebration for all he did in defense of treaty rights and Native sovereignty and the environment.
The natural world seemed to be saying just that on May 11. Almost two inches of rain had fallen in the days after Frank’s passing on May 5, but on this day, as his body was laid to rest at Chief Leschi Cemetery on the Nisqually reservation, the sky stopped weeping. The sun was bright and warm, as if to say, “The time to mourn is over. It’s time to get to work.”
And there’s a lot of work to do. The state is under court order to remove fish-blocking culverts throughout the region. State pollution standards have to be toughened so fish are healthier to eat. The marine ecosystem is being undermined by ocean acidification. Coal and oil transport/export proposals threaten our waters and our communities. The federal government has to take the lead on enforcing laws protecting salmon habitat. Brothers and sisters elsewhere in Indian country are fighting for their rights to fish and hunt and harvest.
No single person will be able to carry the mantle of Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 34 years, a defender of treaty rights and human rights throughout Indian country, a mediator who guided opposing sides to agreement to measures to protect fish and streams and forests, an environmental warrior who helped bring down two dams on the Elwha River, a winner of an Emmy Award for a series on Indian country, a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism for “exemplary contributions to humanity and the environment.”
He lived to 83 but “led the equivalent of three lifetimes,” said Robert Whitener, Squaxin, coordinator of Frank’s funeral service.
No, his mantle will be carried by many. The national and state capitols that once had Billy Frank Jr. to contend with can now expect to face multitudes that worked with him or were inspired by him.
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Funeral services for Billy Frank Jr. will be held 10 a.m. Sunday, May 11 in the Squaxin Island Tribe’s event center at the Little Creek Casino Resort, 91 W.... Read more
William L. Paul Sr., the pioneering Tlingit civil rights leader, was born on May 7, 1885. His landmark legal assault on the U.S. government beginning in the 1920s laid the groundwork for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, which returned 44 million acres of land and nearly a billion dollars to Alaska Natives. But instead of reviewing his life, I’d like to examine just one episode, William’s 1923 defense of the Tlingit leader Charlie Jones, who was charged with illegal voting.
The Sophisticated Tlingit Lawyer
William Paul came from the small town of Wrangell, Alaska, the son of a half-Tlingit mother and a half-Tlingit father. He attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania and later received a baccalaureate degree from Whitworth College in Tacoma. He knew Latin and Greek and was said to have a beautiful tenor voice. After studying law through LaSalle University, he became the first Native to pass the Alaska Bar.
In 1920 he returned to Wrangell, determined to make enough money fishing to finance a move to New York, where he planned to train for the Metropolitan Opera. But, like a Tlingit George Bailey, he would never go.
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“I tell my people to get ready. Get your smokehouses back in shape. Don’t forget the ceremonies. That guy, the salmon, he’s coming back.” Billy Frank Jr. (Legacy Project)
He was called a living legend, a visionary leader, a hero, warrior, revolutionary, peacemaker, and a seminal figure in the northwest coastal tribes’ struggle to protect their sovereignty and assert their treaty fishing rights. And as word spread on Monday that Billy Frank Jr. had walked on, expressions of condolence to his family and praise for his life and legacy poured forth.
A citizen of the Nisqually Indian Tribe and a fisherman of the sacred salmon, Frank became world renowned as the leader of the northwest “fish wars” in the 1960s and 1970s when protesters held “fish-ins” aimed specifically at asserting their treaty-protected fishing rights and, more broadly, their resistance to being culturally assimilated into American society.
Frank’s death was announced by the Nisqually Indian Tribe near Olympia, Washington, “The Nisqually people are mourning the sudden passing of Billy Frank Jr. this morning,” the tribe said on its website. “Billy dedicated his life to protecting our traditional way of life and our salmon. For more than 60 years, Billy was the center of action on behalf of the Nisqually people and of Native Americans throughout our country. Along the way, Billy achieved national and international recognition as a towering figure protecting treaty fishing rights, natural resources and the environment. Billy will be sorely missed and long remembered. On behalf of the Nisqually people, the tribal council expresses our sincerest condolences to Billy’s family.”
Nisqually Chairwoman Cynthia Iyall sent this personal note to ICTMN in response to a request for comment: “Billy will always be in the hearts of Nisqually people. Not only was his amazing life's work something people here will remember but also he will be remembered for his presence on the level of being father and uncle. So many here called Billy Uncle -- a sincere appreciation of having him as a close family member. There are so many heavy hearts today and there will be for a long time to come. Possibly we can all have happiness in the fact that Billy was a true Nisqually and we were all blessed to have him in our lives.”
The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC), which Frank chaired for more than 30 years, also posted a notice of his passing. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our great leader and good friend, Billy Frank Jr. He was a champion for treaty rights, the salmon and a better quality of life for all of us who live here. Our thoughts are with his family,” Lorraine Loomis, Swinomish tribal fisheries manager and NWIFC vice chair, wrote.
Born in 1931, Frank was arrested for the first time for salmon fishing as a boy in 1945 — the first step on his lifelong effort to protect both tribal rights and the threatened or endangered anadromous salmon that migrate across the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the rushing streams and rivers of the northwest aboriginal territories where they hatched. The salmon is central to the identity of the northwest Salmon People, shaping their culture, diets, societies and religion, according to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC).
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Everyone had expected to see Billy Frank Jr. sometime that day at the mid-year conference of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
So, ATNI President Fawn Sharp’s tearful announcement the morning of May 5 sent the room in stunned silence:
The civil rights activist and environmental warrior had walked on.
“It was news we didn’t want to believe,” attorney Gabe Galanda said.
The silence was broken by a Shaker prayer song. Then, someone stood and offered a prayer. The question was asked: Should the meeting continue or adjourn?
Continue, a relative of Frank’s said. The man so many knew as Uncle Billy would want the meeting to continue, because the state needs to remove those fish-blocking culverts, and the state has to lower the pollution levels allowed businesses so we can eat more fish, and the federal government has to take the lead on enforcing laws protecting salmon habitat, and brothers and sisters elsewhere in Indian country are fighting for their rights to fish and hunt and harvest.
“We in Indian country, collectively, will have to pick up the mantle,” state Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, said.
A big mantle it is. In his 83 years, the Nisqually Tribe citizen defended treaty rights in the Northwest and indigenous sovereignty throughout Indian country, guided opposing sides to agreement on how to protect natural resources, helped bring down two dams on the Elwha River, produced an Emmy Award-winning series on Indian country. He chaired the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for 34 years, served as a trustee of The Evergreen State College for seven.
Frank, whose honors included the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, was as comfortable in the Oval Office as he was in a tribal chairperson’s office.
“He was a giant in Indian country and we’re going to miss him,” McCoy said.
The funeral service is scheduled for May 11, 10 a.m., in the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Little Creek Casino Resort Event Center, according to Hank Adams, his friend and fellow treaty rights activist.
It seems fitting that his service would be held in the same venue as the celebration, only three months earlier, of the 40th anniversary of the decision in U.S. vs. Washington. That decision, by U.S. District Court Judge George H. Boldt, upheld the Indian fishing rights reserved in treaties signed in 1855. The decision upheld treaties as being supreme over state law, as stated in the U.S. Constitution.
Boldt’s decision established the Treaty Tribes as co-managers of the state’s salmon fishery and spawned other actions designed to protect salmon, because — as Frank stated in the ensuing years — if there is no salmon fishery, then the treaty is violated.
Among those subsequent actions:
— In 1985, Canada and the United States signed the Pacific Salmon Treaty; through the Pacific Salmon Commission, both countries cooperate in the management, research and enhancement of Pacific salmon stocks.
— In 1994, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled that indigenous treaty signers had also reserved the right to harvest shellfish from any beds not “staked or cultivated by citizens,” meaning all public and private tidelands are subject to treaty harvest. “A treaty is not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them,” Rafeedie wrote in his decision.
— In 1999, the state Legislature adopted the Forests & Fish Law, directing the state’s Forest Practices Board to adopt measures to protect Washington's native fish and aquatic species and ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act. The law affects 60,000 miles of streams flowing through 9.3 million acres of state and private forestland.
– In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled that the state must remove hundreds of state highway culverts that block fish passage over the next 17 years.
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In 2004, we celebrated 30 years since the Boldt Decision of 1974, the landmark Indian fishing rights victory, that Billy Frank Jr.... Read more
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