Friday, November 3, 2006

American Indian Advocates John Echohawk and Billy Frank Jr. Honored With the Wallace Stegner Award, by the University of Colorado at Boulder's Center of the American West

On November 2nd, Executive Director John E. Echohawk and Board of Director Billy Frank received the Wallace Stegner Award. "The Center of the American West presents the Wallace Stegner Award each year to an individual or individuals who have made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West through the literature, art, history, lore or understanding of the West." [From the press release.] Previous recipients include former NARF Board Member, Vine Deloria, Jr. (1933 - Nov. 13, 2005).

John Echohawk, a Pawnee, is the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund. He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico's special program to train Indian lawyers, and was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. John has been with NARF since its inception, having served continuously as Executive Director since 1977. He has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal since 1988 and has received numerous service awards and other recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field.

Billy Frank, Jr. of the Nisqually Tribe, is a Board of Director's member for the Native American Rights Fund and Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC). In the 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Frank was a grass roots political activist who was frequently jailed for his role in civil disobedience, which involved taking part in numerous "fish-ins" in opposition to state authority over the tribes. Years of resistance finally paid off when the federal court ruled in favor of the tribes in U.S. v. Washington, know as the "Boldt Decision" of 1974. The ruling, supported by the Supreme Court in 1979, reaffirmed the treaty-protected fishing rights of the tribes. Among other things, the ruling stated that the tribes have a right to catch up to fifty percent of the harvestable resource, and that the state and the tribes must manage the resource as co-managers.

For more information about the award, read the press release from the University of Colorado, Boulder.