Hank Adams

views updated

Hank Adams

Originally a staunch supporter of the Kennedys, Hank Adams (born 1944) moved into the arena of Native American activism in 1964. Eventually he became the director of the Survival of American In dians Association, a group dedicated to the Indian treaty-fishing rights battle.

Hank Adams was born in 1944 on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana at a place known as Wolf Point, but more commonly referred to as Poverty Flats. He graduated in 1961 from Moclips High School, where he was student-body president, editor of the school newspaper and annual, and a starting football and basketball player. Following graduation he developed an interest in politics and moved to California where he was a staunch supporter of President John F. Kennedy and a campaign worker for the president's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, in the 1968 Democratic primary.

In 1964, Adams played a behind-the-scenes role when actor Marlon Brando and a thousand Indians marched on the Washington State capitol in Olympia to protest state policies toward Indian fishing rights. Indians reserved the right to take fish in "the usual and accustomed places" in numerous treaties negotiated in the 1850s. State officials and commercial and sports fisherman tried to restrict the amount, time, and places where Indian people could fish, thus prompting the treaty-fishing rights battles.

Adams began his activist career in April 1964 when he refused induction into the U.S. Army until Indian treaty rights were recognized. His attempt failed and he ultimately served in the U.S. Army. In 1968, Adams became the director of the Survival of American Indians Association, a group of 150 to 200 active members primarily dedicated to the Indian treaty-fishing rights battle. Late in 1968, he actively campaigned against state regulation of Indian net fishing on the Nisqually River near Franks Landing, Washington. For this and his role in the fishing-rights battles, Adams was regularly arrested and jailed from 1968 to 1971. In January 1971, on the banks of the Puyallup River near Tacoma, Washington, Adams was shot in the stomach by an unknown assailant. He and a companion, Michael Hunt, had set a fish trap about midnight and remained to watch it. That section of the Puyallup River had been the scene of recent altercations as Indian people claimed fishing rights guaranteed by treaties, despite state laws to the contrary. Adams recovered from the gunshot wound and continued to fight for Indian fishing rights in the state of Washington into the mid-1970s. □