A champion for Indian peoples
Anyone in public life or who followed the news in Washington state during
the 1960s and ’70s would have known of Hank Adams. His impact was such that
when Congress was acting to restore our second-highest mountain to the
Yakama Nation within its treaty boundaries, one editorial caustically noted
that the snow-capped volcano might best be “renamed Mount Hank Adams.”
I first came into contact with Hank when I was legislative aide to state
Sen. Martin Durkan. The issue was not directly Indian-related and the
By contrivance of federal and local agencies, Hank was rushed to jail in
early 1972 — on a 1968 protest conviction — just as he prepared to lead
an Indian delegation to North Vietnam and Hanoi. His smuggled anti-war
statements from jail made the Seattle news.
But the issue of immediate public import coming from his Olympia cell —
just across the expanse of lawn from the Capitol Legislative Building —
was the desperate need for jail reform. His report of experiences and
observations preceded a statewide expose of jail conditions, prisoner
mistreatment and inadequate staff training published by the Seattle
The Thurston County sheriff’s office denied all his accounts — including
his prediction of forthcoming deaths there. Credibility shifted in Hank’s
favor when a young inmate committed suicide in his cell shortly after
Hank’s release and on the heels of the jailers’ denial of problems.
The Legislature was moved to action and created a State Jail Commission
headed by Secretary of State Lud Kramer. The commission and staff quietly
consulted Hank in making its report and recommendations. The result was
legislative funding for new jails and courthouse complexes throughout the
state — with priority rankings given to the worst. Topping the list in
several categories, Thurston County got a new courthouse and jail.
A bonus outcome came two years later with the notorious kidnapping of
newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Based on the Kramer jail work and
associations with state food banks, Hank gained acceptance from the
Symbionese Liberation Army for Kramer and Northwest Harvest’s Peggy Maze to
direct the San Francisco Bay Area food distribution operations as was
demanded as a condition for Hearst’s release.
Her promised release didn’t follow. However, after I replaced Jack
Cunningham in Congress — following the Indian “Longest Walk” protesting
Cunningham’s treaties abrogation proposals — Maze became one of my aides
in Washington, D.C., where she continued to work these same issues.
I met Hank first among the tribal lobbying forces drawn bi-annually into
Olympia to oppose anti-Indian legislation and hostile memorials to
Congress. Notably he was with great leaders such as Joe DeLaCruz, Billy
Frank Jr., Bernie Whitebear and Ramona Bennett. I got them passes to work
the Senate alcoves with their persuasive documents — most written or
supplied by Hank.
Hank’s political savvy was shown early after I was elected to Congress in
1979. He drew Congressman Joel Pritchard, Jack Robertson (policy adviser to
U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield) and me from our airplane seats to convene a
cross-country conference of shared interests. The Supreme Court in July
1979 had affirmed the Boldt decision. Hank discussed its future and the
persistent efforts in Congress to abrogate Indian treaty fishing rights.
Dividends traced from that encounter. In enacting Sen. Warren Magnusen’s
Salmon and Steelhead Preservation and Enhancement Act of 1980, Hank was on
the inside with all major parties drafting its final language. He received
constant briefings in Olympia from the Indian Fish Commission, state Fish
and Game officials and the governor’s office, plus from Joel’s and my
staffs in Washington, D.C. He rapidly negotiated changes and agreements.
The war in Nicaragua brought Hank and me together on another issue. Writing
about his travel to Central America in 1984, ’85 and ’86, Hank helped
convince the Reagan administration that Brooklyn Rivera’s Indian forces
deserved treatment separate from the Contras. Also, Hank’s Nicaragua
photographs were included in Senate and House displays sponsored by Sen.
Edward Kennedy and Rep. John McCain.
I was a reception sponsor for Hank when he was awarded a Jefferson Award at
the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. He quickly corrected a dilemma posed by my
introduction as “the only Congressman with guts.” He stepped forward to add
others to the praise. The Hill’s long memories likely kicked in with favor
when Hank asked appropriators to pay all of the 1989 Puyallup Land Claims
Settlement Act millions in a single year.
I am proud to admit that I am one of the Washington governors who have put
his or her official signature to a needed letter or to some other essential
document authored by Hank Adams.
When one goes to Frank’s Landing, sees the new Wa He Lut Indian School,
visits among Nisqually watershed salmon hatcheries, walks upon original
Puyallup Reservation lands, or touches upon any water-area habitat to fish
and share with Indian nations throughout the total expanse of Washington
and its coastal adjuncts — and beyond — the causes for pride are
self-evident. Pride in the results of the vision and enterprise of great
American Indians leaders such as Hank Adams.
The Hon. Mike Lowry served as a member of Congress from 1979 — ’88 and as
the governor of the state of Washington from 1993 — ’97. Starting as a
U.S. Senate aide and continuing during his terms in the U.S. House of
Representatives and in the Washington State House, he developed and
championed innovative and just measures for the benefit of Native peoples