Billy Frank Jr. to speak at NWIC graduation, June 15

Billy Frank Jr. (Nisqually), chair of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and a key figure in actions that have affirmed the treaty rights of Washington tribes, will be the commencement speaker at this year’s Northwest Indian College (NWIC) graduation ceremony.

The ceremony will take place June 15 at 4 p.m. at the Wex’lium Community Building. It is open to the community and will include a celebratory meal.

“Billy is a living icon of the sacrifices that our elders and leaders have made in the protection of our inherent rights,” NWIC President Cheryl Crazy Bull said. “He uses his personal commitment and his voice to encourage and support all Native people, especially our youth and students as they continue the fight for our identity and resources.”

Frank has served as chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission over the past 30 years. He was arrested more than 50 times for standing up for the fishing rights of Washington tribes and was a key figure that led to the Boldt Decision, a 1974 U.S. District Court decision that affirmed the treaty rights of most tribes in Washington to continue to harvest salmon. In 1992, he received the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism – Jimmy Carter is a former recipient of the same award.

Three student speakers, including Raymond Hite Jr. and Kimberly Freewolf, will also speak at the 2012 commencement ceremony.

Freewolf, a Port Gamble tribal member, will earn an Associate of Arts/Sciences General Direct Transfer Degree.

Raymond Hite Jr. will earn an Associate of Technical Arts degree in Chemical Dependency Studies, a Certificate in Native American Studies, and an Associate of Arts/Sciences General Direct Transfer Degree. 

So far this academic year, 30 students have graduated from NWIC, and it’s projected that 50 students will graduate at the end of spring quarter. Last academic year, a total of 71 students graduated from the college.