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