There is delicious irony in the fact of Billy Frank, Jr., lying in state this past weekend literally within a stone’s throw of the first American pioneers to settle on Puget Sound. For five hours on Saturday, friends and admirers of the most famous—and arguably most beloved—American Indian elder in the Pacific Northwest paid their respects not 50 yards from the graves of old pioneer settlers in Tumwater’s Union cemetery. Those pioneers were the vanguard of the huge wave of Oregon Trail emigrants who would soon displace and marginalize the indigenous people of Washington, changing their world forever.
Somewhere, Billy is grinning. “Goddamn,” he says. “We’re still here.” (more…)