Another common theme by the speakers was the desire to continue Billy's work. The speakers acknowledged that it will take the endeavors of one thousand people to replace Billy Frank Jr. One of Billy's friends imagined a time 200 years in the future where a chairwoman will rally Indian Country to pull together and fight for the environment. She will tell tribal members that they can have victory if they all pull together as people did under Billy Frank Jr. to save the salmon 200 years earlier.
Many speakers said they had become students of the Billy Frank Jr. University of Values. He taught them to listen to the treaties because that is when their ancestors are talking to them. Even though Billy was persistent and often filled with righteous anger, he never failed to let each person know that he loved them. He would greet them with, "Jesus Christ, it's good to see you!" accompanied by a huge bear hug. He taught people to listen first, then speak. He taught us that people will listen on the hard issues when they know that you deeply care for them. TJ Greene said Billy was a great man because he was honest, courageous, and made everyone feel that he cared about them. His niece, Nancy Shippentower-Games, said that no one can replace him, but we can all learn from him.
The fight for tribal sovereignty is another theme of Billy's life. He wanted Indian Country to stay out of the court system so that someone else would not be defining who the Tribes are. He said, "Those people are not your friends!" He wanted Tribes to define themselves and to continue to fight for true sovereignty. Billy stressed the need for everyone in the family to work together to solve problems. Today, Tribal members vowed to continue to fight, to never stop until there was no longer a need to fight.
Tribal leaders acknowledged that they don't understand how they came to be in the positions they hold. They are humble people who openly credit the Creator with their rise to power and ask the Creator for the strength and wisdom needed to keep fighting until it is their time to walk on and join Billy. There was an overflowing expression of gratitude for Billy's tireless encouragement and support in forging new leaders. Billy once asked a Tribal member, "Don't give up on me. I need you." They won't.
Flags are at half-mast across the state of Washington today in honor of Billy Frank Jr. A flag that was flown over the capitol of the United States of America was presented to his son Willie Frank III in honor of his father's service as a Marine. The US Fish and Wildlife service presented Willie with a bald eagle feather in honor of his father's efforts in teaching USFW how to preserve wildlife and habitat. The McCloud family sang the Song of the Eagle for their uncle at the end of the service..."When I see that eagle fly, I know it's you, I know it's you."
Farewell Big Chief. Have a safe trip home.