Interesting Facts about Hank Adams, an American Native Rights Activist


Henry Lyle Adams, or Hank Adams as he is more widely known, is one of the names that has the most resonance in the complex story of Native American activism. This remarkable man is highlighted in today’s Google Doodle, but his legacy goes far beyond the digital art that grace our screens. Our exploration of Hank Adams’ life and legacy in this feature focused on his activism and advocacy for Native Americans’ sovereignty and empowerment.

Knowing that Hank Adams’ impact goes beyond remembrance is important as we honor him with today’s Google Doodle. As a beacon of advocacy, tenacity, and unwavering dedication to justice, his life’s work continues to have an impact on communities and generations. Hank Adams’s life story serves as a source of inspiration and empowerment for those who struggle for respect and legitimate sovereignty, rather than merely serving as a moment of recognition.

Who was Henry Lyle Adams?

American Native rights activist Henry Lyle Adams was a skilled strategist, tactician, and negotiator. After 1960, he played a crucial role in settling a number of significant disputes between Native Americans and representatives of the state and federal governments.

  • Birth name: Henry Lyle Adams
  • Birth date: May 16, 1943
  • Birthplace: Wolf Point, Montana
  • Died on: December 21, 2020 (aged 77)
  • Death place: Olympia, Washington
  • Other names: Yellow Eagle
  • Alma mater: University of Washington
  • Occupation: Native American rights activist
  • Years active: 1960–2020
  • Known for: tactician, strategist, and negotiator of several key events including the Boldt Decision
  • Movement: American Indian Movement
  • Awards:
    • American Indian Visionary Award, 2006
    • Jefferson Award for Public Service, 1981

35 Interesting Facts about Hank Adams

  1. On May 16, 1943, Hank Adams was born on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana into an Assiniboine family. Wolf Point, Montana, also referred to as Poverty Flats, is the place of his birth.
  2. He was born on a reservation in Montana and lived most of his life in Washington state. He participated in protests and negotiations in Washington, DC, and Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
  3. As World War II was coming to an end, his family relocated to Washington State. On the Olympic Peninsula, in the Quinault Indian Reservation, they settled in Taholah, Washington.
  4. Hank Adams developed a strong work ethic while picking fruit and vegetables on local farms and going fishing regularly as a child.
  5. Adams attended Moclips-Aloha High School in Moclips, Washington, where he played basketball and football and graduated in 1961. He also served as student body president and editor of the school newspaper and yearbook. He had a part-time job on the Quinault Reservation at a sawmill.
  6. Adams studied for two years, from 1961 to 1963, at the University of Washington. To fight the suicide epidemic, he made the commute from the Quinault Reservation to school.
  7. Soon after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, he dropped out of university to focus full-time on preventing suicide in Native American youth. In that same year, he began a lengthy battle for treaty rights alongside activist Billy Frank Jr. (Nisqually).
  8. In 1963, Hank Adams became a member of the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC). He met actor Marlon Brando while serving as Special Projects Director (1963–1967). Brando later got involved in the Native American rights movement and gave protesters support at several events.
  9. Adams planned a protest march on March 3, 1964, on Olympia, the state capital of Washington, to attract attention to the state’s attempt to restrict fishing rights granted to Indians under treaties.
  10. In 1964 and 1965, Adams served as the research secretary for the National Congress of American Indians.
  11. Hank Adams declined to be drafted into the army in April 1964 unless the federal government respected his traditional Indian treaty rights. Despite receiving media attention for his rebellion, he later enlisted in the Army and served from 1965 to 1967 for two years.
  12. Adams became the leader of the Survival of American Indians Association (SAIA) in 1968.
  13. Adams joined the fight against the state’s prohibition on Native Americans fishing on Washington’s Nisqually River towards the close of 1968.
  14. Adams participated in the Poor People’s Campaign, which was organized by Martin Luther King Jr., as a member of its national steering committee.
  15. In April of 1968, Hank Adams was one of the Native Americans who “reached out across the racial divide in common cause with other poor people” by occupying Washington, D.C.’s National Mall.
  16. On May 29, 1968, Adams led a group of more than a hundred Resurrection City residents—including Native Americans in tribal regalia—to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
  17. Adams ran for the Republican nomination as candidate in 1968 and 1972 in the third congressional district of Washington to serve in the House of Representatives. Despite his failure, he backed Republican candidates.
  18. Hank Adams outlined a 15-point plan for national reforms in 1971 with the intention of creating a “system of bilateral relationships between Indian tribes and the federal government.”
  19. Adams persisted in his efforts to advance fishing rights while also influencing lawmakers in Washington. Throughout his life, Adams worked with issues pertaining to the Boldt Decision.
  20. Adams was involved in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and traveled across the country with AIM members during their 1972 protest caravan, the Trail of Broken Treaties.
  21. A key figure in two of the most significant Red Power demonstrations of the early 1970s, Adams helped save the lives of Indians. Adams took part in the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee a few months later.
  22. AIM demonstrators organized the 71-day occupation protest known as the Wounded Knee incident in February 1973, inside the South Dakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Adams contributed to the peaceful conclusion of the occupation.
  23. Hank Adams made the documentary film As Long as the Rivers Run with the intention of raising awareness of the treaty fishing disputes in the Pacific Northwest. The Fish Wars were a series of protests by Native Americans to protect their fishing rights, and the fights between them and government officials were captured on camera between 1968 and 1970. Adams dedicated this movie to his sister-in-law Valerie Bridges, who drowned while participating in a protest for fishing rights.
  24. Many in the Indian community regarded Adams as one of the movement’s most important figures.
  25. As Long as the Rivers Run is a documentary film that Adams made to raise awareness of the treaty fishing disputes in the Pacific Northwest. The conflicts between Native Americans and government representatives during the Fish Wars—a series of protests wherein they attempted to protect their fishing rights—were captured on camera between 1968 and 1970. This movie is dedicated by Adams to his sister-in-law Valerie Bridges, who drowned while protesting for her right to fish.
  26. In the Indian community, Hank Adams was regarded by many as one of the movement’s most significant figures.
  27. Adams was a Nisqually person who belonged to the Franks Landing Indian Community.
  28. On December 21, 2020, he died in Olympia, Washington.
  29. Hank Adams received the 1981 Jefferson Award for Public Service from the American Institute for Public Service.
  30. The National Education Association presented Adams with an Abraham Lincoln Award in 1971 in recognition of his “tireless activism” and “courageous actions in support of equal opportunity”.
  31. Adams played a significant role in the movement to establish and defend Native Americans’ unrestricted fishing and hunting rights on their ancestral lands.
  32. Through legal challenges and protests, he promoted change. The United States Supreme Court (1979) upheld the Boldt Decision (1974) ruling in United States v. Washington (1974), which restored native treaty fishing rights on ceded territory.
  33. Adams took part in the American Indian Movement, which included its 1972 occupation of the Department of Interior Building in Washington, DC, and the 1973 71-day standoff at Wounded Knee. Adams was instrumental in bringing about amicable ends to contentious situations in both situations.
  34. His advocacy for tribal sovereignty and the restoration of the elders’ role within tribes persisted.
  35. Hank Adams became the third person to be recognized with Indian Country Today’s American Indian Visionary Award in 2006.
Raeesa Sayyad

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