The House of Representatives approved a bill that would lead to the creation and placement of a statue of Billy Frank, Jr. in the United States Capitol, in or near its Statuary Hall.
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1372 passed by 92 yea votes yesterday, the day before what would have been Frank's 90th birthday, a day celebrated as a holiday by Indian tribes around the United States.
The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, would direct the governor to establish a 15-person group called "The Billy Frank Jr. National Statuary Hall Selection Committee" to oversee the design of the statue, ensure that the work complies with requirements established by the US Congress and make arrangements for transporting, installing and celebrating it.
Federal law invites each state to display two statues in the United States Capitol. Most of these statues are located in the Capitol's Statuary Hall; a few are located in the Rotunda and in major hallways nearby. Washington has been represented by statues of Mother Joseph Pariseau, known regionally here as a founder of what has become Providence Health & Services, and Marcus Whitman, a physician and missionary whose reputation included both establishment of schools and clinics as well as disputes with Indian tribes in the area now known as Walla Walla. The Whitman statue would be returned to Washington state and redisplayed in a county "that contains the historical location of the Whitman mission."
No funds are expected to be allocated by ESHB 1372; the bill anticipates that the funds to design, create and transport both statues will be raised through private grants and donations.
Billy Frank, Jr., 1931-2014, was a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe who rose to national prominence as a civil rights activist for Native American tribal rights, particularly those related to the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1846, which were disputed by the State of Washington until 1975. He was the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, from 1981 until his death. In 2015 the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, at the mouth of the Nisqually River, was renamed in his honor.