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U.S. Navy to name ship in honor of late tribal activist Billy Frank Jr.

The late Billy Frank Jr, a Nisqually tribal elder and legendary Native American activist, will soon have a U.S. Navy ship named in his honor.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced on July 14 that a future Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ship will bear the name USNS Billy Frank Jr. The class of ships are traditionally named after prominent Native Americans or Native American tribes.

"I am honored for the opportunity to name a naval ship after Billy Frank Jr., a man who was a proponent and leader for Native American rights," Del Toro said in a press release. "Billy Frank Jr. spent his life serving others, and his namesake ship will do the same as it travels around the world enabling humanitarian assistance and the maintenance of freedom."

Born in Nisqually in 1931, Frank was a prominent advocate of tribal fishing rights throughout his life. He was first arrested in 1945 at the age of 14 while fishing on his beloved Nisqually River, according to He served as a military policeman in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years before returning to Washington, where he continued to fish. Frank became the leader of a civil disobedience movement that insisted on the 19th century treaties that guaranteed the local tribes access to historical waters for fishing.

His "fish-ins" and demonstrations at the state Capitol gained national attention, and Frank was arrested more than 50 times in his fight to preserve his tribe's right to fish in their beloved land, according to Historylink. The movement led to the landmark Boldt Decision that re-affirmed the rights of Native American tribes to half of the fish harvest and the right to fish in their waters as they always had.

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