Recently elected Nisqually Tribal Chair Willie Frank III has memories from his childhood of attending the Nisqually Land Trust’s annual auction, which raised about $122,000 this year in a livestream event on Saturday, June 5.
Frank joined the Nisqually Land Trust’s board and was a speaker at the auction, detailing his family’s history and his tribe’s historic support of the land trust’s work restoring the Nisqually River watershed.
Frank’s late father, Billy Frank Jr., was influential in starting the land trust. He was a Nisqually activist who has recently been honored with a statue in his likeness that will be placed in Washington D.C.’s Statutory Hall.
“My father spent his whole life on the Nisqually River,” Frank said. “He was born at Frank’s Landing. He fished on the river, lived there, but his goal was to protect it for future generations … so they can enjoy our beautiful salmon, our beautiful river. … It’s the greatest river in the world.”
Jeanette Dorner, Nisqually Land Trust executive director, said the Tribe and the trust are interlinked in many ways.
“Our history of the land trust is intertwined with the relationship with the Tribe, and the importance of protecting the natural resources for the ability of our people of the watershed to enjoy it for future, but also for the Tribe and its culture and heritage,” Dorner said.
Most recently, the Nisqually River Land Trust and the Nisqually Indian Tribe entered into a historic partnership, purchasing 2,200 acres and over three miles of critical salmon habitat along Busy Wild Creek on the flanks of Mount Rainier. The creek is part of the headwaters of Rachel River, which flows into the Nisqually River. The groups plan to benefit Nisqually Chinook Salmon and steelhead trout with the acquisition.
House Minority Leader JT Wilcox, R-Yelm, detailed another partnership in a pre-recorded address for the livestream — that of the land trust and his family of Wilcox Farms, who have been with the trust since its inception.
“I represent the second district, which you could describe as the Nisqually River Basin land trust,” Wilcox said. “It has been a great pleasure to me to be involved in some way with the Nisqually River Land Trust since the day it started. … I was the founding vice president.”
He said his family sees its involvement with the trust as a no-brainer and said the lands of the Nisqually River deserve to be protected for the benefit of all along the river, inclusive of private businesses like Wilcox Farms.
The farm has recently been influential in the acquisition of land trust acreage that has been acquired along the river, adjacent to Wilcox Farms, and Wilcox’s own daughter now sits on the board.
The speakers at the event spoke of the importance of the Nisqually Land Trust’s work.
“For us, it’s about educating the next generation, whether its Native or nonnative,” Frank said. “One of the things I always think about is the big picture as far as us living in the state of Washington. We need to come together and make sure we’re doing whatever we can for the environment, the watershed — everything that lives off the land, I think.”
Wilcox said the people of the basin have always come together for the good of all, and the land trust is the prime example of that.
“We have a strong tradition here in the Nisqually River Basin,” Wilcox said. “We don’t get into fights. We don’t try and divide one another. We try to get along and figure out how we can achieve the things we need to achieve in a way that is going to preserve a unique basin for our children and grandchildren.”
In another pre-recorded video, Denny Heck, Washington state lieutenant governor, expressed his heartfelt gratitude to everyone involved with the trust, including Yelm Mayor JW Foster and Nisqually Tribal Councilmember Hanford McCloud.
“Thank you to the Nisqually Land Trust, for all your great work over the years,” Heck said. “I thank you not on behalf of just myself, but on the behalf of … my six- and eight-year-old grandchildren. Your work is so important.”