courtesy Gyasi Ross

Billy Frank Jr.: An Indigenous Legend and One of the Best Human Beings Ever

Gyasi Ross

I know news cycles quickly move on to the “next big story.” But we can’t do that with Billy Frank, Jr. He deserves a LOT more time.

I know last week everybody was talking a lot about Billy Frank, Jr. Good. They should. He’s a legend, an icon, one of the most important human beings in this Nation. But I want to tell just a bit about my own little perspective about the Uncle Billy that I know.

When I met Uncle Billy, he was already an international human rights/civil rights icon. I was fortunate to know a lot of folks from Franks Landing and Wa He Lut Indian School as a child; my brother Adochas and Spappy introduced me to their parents, the late, great Allison Bridges Gottfriedson (a powerful activist in her own right) and also Hank Gottfriedson, and they are all part of Uncle Billy’s immediate family. It made sense—Allison and family are all incredible, generous and powerful people. Like Uncle Billy.

Being powerful and principled is a family value for members of the Franks Landing Indian Community. They are all incredible Native people who taught me what Native power could look like.

The folks from Franks Landing later introduced me to Uncle Billy. When I met him, I was in awe. Like the Scottish warriors in “Braveheart,” I expected Billy Frank to be seven feet tall, consume his enemies with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.

But instead, there was this little, silver-haired Native man with an ever-present wool hat and a vest on. Superman’s costume—it worked perfectly.

I hear a lot of people talking about how close they were with Billy, how good of friends they were with him.


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