The street leading to the north side of Western’s campus has a new name with historical significance.
The Bellingham City Council has renamed Indian Street in honor of treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr. New street signs went up Nov. 24, the same day Frank posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the White House.
Frank was a Nisqually leader who fought to have treaty rights enforced in the state of Washington during the Great Northwest Fishing War of the ‘60s and ‘70s. In 1974 federal judge George Boldt ruled that tribes that had signed an 1854 treaty with the federal government were entitled to harvest half the state’s salmon and to co-manage fisheries with the state. Frank then served for 33 years as chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and was a leader in salmon habitat restoration.
Bellingham Councilman Terry Bornemann first suggested naming a Bellingham street after Frank, who died in 2014, and WWU Political Science Professor Vernon Damani Johnson suggested renaming Indian Street.
“It leads to the university,” Johnson told the Bellingham Herald. “It’s a teachable opportunity if people ask, ‘Who was Billy Frank Jr.?’”