Environmental leader and treaty rights activist, Billy Frank Jr.'s statue heads to the US Capitol

The statue of late tribal leader Billy Frank Jr. will stand among the country's best in Washington DC.

"Today we are sending the best of the state of Washington to the United State's Capitol," said Governor Jay Inslee, as he signed a measure to replace Marcus Whitman's statue with Frank's at the National Statuary Hall Collection.

The collection features 100 statues, with each state contributing two notable deceased residents. The other statue is of Mother Joseph, a Catholic nun from Canada who led her congregation to the Pacific Northwest and founded hospitals and schools.

"It is said that you die twice. The first time, and then the second time when people stop talking about you or remember you. Because of what has happened today, we're never going to stop talking about or remembering Billy," said Lt. Governor Denny Heck.

RELATED: Billy Frank Jr. continues to leave lasting legacy

Frank was a member of the Nisqually tribe and was a tireless advocate for tribal fishing rights and salmon recovery.

"My father was arrested over 50 times right here in the Nisqually River for exercising his treaty right, for doing what he was taught by his dad and his grandfather," said his son and Nisqually councilman Willie Frank III.

Frank's acts of disobedience drew the attention of Washington's native tribes and the basic rights they were being denied. It led to a historic ruling reaffirming the rights of Indian tribes to fish in accustomed places.

"If you listen closely, you could hear Billy's voice throughout the room to tell your story, tell your story, tell your story, tell your story, tell your story, never forget who you are and where you come from," said Rep. Debra Lekanoff.

Frank's many honors include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Washington State Environmental Excellence Award. He passed in 2014, but even after his death, he continues to inspire and fight for environmental rights.

"He said you can celebrate today, but tomorrow, you guys get back to work. We need to continue to fight, we need to continue the battle," said Frank III.

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