Gov. Inslee to sign bill to replace Whitman statues today
Indian fisheries activist Frank to take his place
Last updated 4/14/2021 at 9:14am
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign a bill today that would begin the process of removing statues of perhaps the state's most prominent figure from the Capitol building and the National Statuary in Washington, D.C.
The governor has called an 11:30 a.m. signing ceremony, where he will sign House Bill 1372 into law.
The bill would replace the statues of Pacific Northwest pioneer, teacher and missionary Marcus Whitman. They will be replaced with statues of Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribal fishing rights activist.
The governor said he has invited Nisqually leaders Chairman Ken Choke and Councilman Willie Frank III, Lt. Gov. Denny Heck and Rep. Lekanoff, D-Bow , to join him for the signing.
Lekanoff is an Alaskan native and the sponsor of the bill.
Whitman is perhaps the most significant person in the modern history of the Pacific Northwest, having personally brought settlers to the Oregon Territory on the Oregon Trail.
He and his wife, Narcissa, establishing a mission near president day College Place and teaching and caring for settlers and Cayuse and Nez Perce tribal members. Their daughter was the first non-Indian born in the Pacific Northwest.
Their mission became a stopping point for those settling in the Oregon Territory.
As the number of settlers continued to grow, tribes became restless over the encroachment. They also blamed the Whitmans for the measles outbreak. On Nov. 29, 1847, a raiding party attacked those at the mission, killing 12 people and taking many others hostage. The incident is today referred to as the Whitman Massacre, and historians mark it as the starting point of the Cayuse War, which lasted until 1855, and resulted in U.S. military outposts being established throughout the Oregon Territory.
Because of his prominence in Pacific Northwest history, Whitman County bears his name, as does a college, public schools, parks, streets and even a glacier on Mount Rainier. (Franklin County was created from a portion of Whitman County on Nov. 28, 1883.)
Billy Frank Jr.
Frank was a Nisqually tribal activist who challenged challenged fishing rules and pressured the government to regulate dams and fishing boats.
In the 1960s, he took up the fight to require the U.S. government to honor treaty rights and guarantee tribal access to a minimum number of salmon. His efforts ultimately led to the 1974 Boldt decision, which guaranteed 20 Western Washington tribes half of all harvestable salmon, regardless of population.
In 1975, he became instrumental in organizing the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
He died May 5, 2014.