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Nisqually refuge to be renamed to honor late Billy Frank Jr.

Legislation has been passed to honor the late Billy Frank Jr., a longtime native rights activist, by renaming the Nisqually wildlife refuge the Billy Frank Jr. National Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.
Legislation has been passed to honor the late Billy Frank Jr., a longtime native rights activist, by renaming the Nisqually wildlife refuge the Billy Frank Jr. National Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Staff file, 2011

The U.S. Senate on Monday approved legislation to rename the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in honor of the late Billy Frank Jr. and build a memorial in the refuge commemorating the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854, according to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s office.

The bill — titled the Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act — passed the House earlier this year and now heads to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law, according to a news release. The act was unanimously supported by the state’s congressional delegation and also garnered support from the National Congress of American Indians, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, it says.

The bill will also require the Department of Interior to coordinate with the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup and Squaxin Island tribes in developing educational materials for the new national memorial.

The refuge is to be renamed the Billy Frank Jr. National Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, which is next to the Nisqually Reservation, where Frank was raised and lived until his death in May 2014 at age 83. Frank fought to enforce the Medicine Creek Treaty — particularly the provision entitling Indian tribes to half the fish catch.

Frank was a charismatic, larger-than-life civil rights hero, a champion of Indian treaty rights and an advocate of environmental stewardship.

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