Hank Adams, once described by Vine Deloria, Jr. as being “The most important Indian” in the country, will be sharing with us on KAOS 89.3 fm. Hank is one of the iconic figures in the American Indian civil rights movement. An Assiniboine-Sioux from Montana, he moved to the Northwest as a youth and never left. It would be difficult to find an event during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s that Hank Adams was not involved in. He was a central figure in the struggle of the Northwest coast tribes to secure their inherent fishing rights.
In 1971 he was shot in the stomach while guarding Indian fishing nets, allegedly by white fishermen. Adams and the other Indian fishing activists preserved, and eventually their acts of resistance not only helped bring about the landmark court case U.S. v. Washington – the Boldt decision – but proved to be the impetus for an entire movement. Hank Adams was everywhere during this time period: Alcatraz, the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan, and Wounded Knee were just a few of the events in which he played a key role in. Adams was in many respects the “intellectual genius” of the movement, and wrote numerous position papers, including “The Twenty Points,” regarded as one of the most comprehensive Indigenous policy proposals ever devised.
Recently Dr. David E. Wilkins edited a collection of his best writings in a volume entitled The Hank Adams Reader (2012). In 2006, Indian Country Today named Hank as recipient of its third (Billy Frank, Jr. and Deloria being the first and second respectively) American Indian Visionary Award. Recently Hank Adams was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in Native leadership from Northwest Indian College.
Photo by Kimberly Adams
I was not – and have never claimed to be – a founder of Survival of American Indians Association, Incorporated [SAIA]. I have recently posted documents showing its original incorporators and board members of May 28, 1964 and officers of 1965. [See: Facebook – “An October 13 Anniversary (1965) – 50th of SURVIVAL (SAIA-1964)” at: https://www.facebook.com/hank.adams.9081/media_set?set=a.10152391187133263.1073741857.757083262&type=3 ]. The organization began taking form in latter 1963 with meetings and minutes. I first went to the Nisqually Indian Tribe [Reuben Wells, Chairman] and Franks Landing in January 1964 in organizing efforts of the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) in support of Indian people already active and engaged in support and defense of Indian treaty rights and their continued exercise. My reported public statements at the time [beginning with a Dec. 1963 article in the Denver Post announcing the NIYC’s plans for a “National Campaign of Indian Awareness” were made in the name of NIYC – including an NIYC statement of support given at the clambake at the Nisqually Grange Hall in welcoming the six “Renegade fishermen of the Nisqually River” home from their 30-day sentences for contempt in the Pierce County Jail during March and April 1964. It is not easy to prevent publication of recycled press errors – but – notwithstanding my being a member of SAIA since spring of 1964 – others among Western Washington fishing tribes and families were the initiators and agents of its creation and formal organization and initial activities and leadership.