On Saturday, the Nisqually Land Trust highlighted the valuable role of the Nisqually Indian Tribe in environmental conservation during its annual auction.
Yelm Mayor JW Foster and Executive Director of the Nisqually Land Trust Jeanette Dorner hosted the online Conservation Celebration & Auction event, which ran from 6 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. on June 5. The auction itself opened last week and closed Sunday night, raising “over $122,000,” according to the local non-profit organization. The Trust Fund plans to use proceeds to acquire more critical lands in the Nisqually Watershed to benefit the water, wildlife, and people in the area.
During the program, George Walter, Nisqually Land Trust Founding President, also shared a brief message. In his speech, Walter focused on the significant role that the Nisqually tribe plays in conservation. “I didn’t think we would have a Nisqually Land Trust if we didn’t have a Nisqually Indian Tribe, and their fishery, and their salmon and treaty rights,” Walter said.
Dorner agreed, adding, “our history of the land trust is intertwined with the relationship with the tribe, and the importance of protecting the natural resources.”
In addition, Willie Frank III spoke in his new role as chairman of the Nisqually Indian Tribe. He shared that growing up as a member of the Nisqually tribe, environmental conservation was always important to his community. He shared that his father, Billy Frank, Jr., would often bring him along to Trust Fund auctions when he was just seven or eight years old.
Billy Frank Jr. was a central figure during the fish wars in the ’60s and ’70s. Despite his repeated arrests, Frank’s fight successfully resulted in a treaty, known as the Boldt decision. The treaty ultimately gave 20 Washington Tribes half of the salmon harvests in the state.
In addition, Willie Frank’s cousin, Hanford McCloud, who also serves as a member of the Nisqually Tribal Council shared, “we were always connected to this river and to this prairie.”
Throughout the years, Dorner claimed that the Trust Fund acquired 8,735 acres of critical land areas. She added that when the organization began in 1989, the Trust Fund only focused on protecting the salmon and trout within the watershed. A few years later, the mission expanded to cover forest lands.
Currently, the Trust identified the marine area as their top priority, particularly the shoreline just off the Nisqually estuary. Dorner explained that because of these expansions, they were able to protect the salmon and other aquatic species as they moved down the Puget Sound.
Honoring Billy Frank Jr.
During the event, the Nisqually Land Trust also announced the state’s plan to construct a statue of Billy Frank, Jr. and place it in the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
The project started as House Bill 1372, was introduced by state Rep. Debra Lekanoff and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in April as a way to recognize Frank Jr.'s significant contribution to the protection and conservation of the rivers.
In response, Willie Frank shared that he was honored to know that his father’s lifetime efforts are finally validated.
The new statue will replace that of Marcus Whitman in the United States Capitol.
A recording of the event is available online.