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Biography of Hank Adams

Name: Hank Adams
Bith Date: 1944
Death Date:
Place of Birth: Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, United States
Nationality: American
Gender: Male
Occupations: Native American rights activist, executive director
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 Indians 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.

In 1972, Adams drafted the Twenty Point Proposal, which the Nixon White House later agreed to consider in exchange for American Indian Movement (AIM) protesters agreeing to abandon the occupied Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building in Washington, D.C. Key demands in the proposal included restoration of constitutional treaty-making authority to Indian tribes and nations; judicial recognition of Indians' rights to interpret treaties; repeal of state laws that pose a serious threat to Indian sovereignty and local self-government; resumption of federal protective jurisdiction for offenses against Indians; abolition of the BIA by 1976; creation of an office of federal Indian relations and community reconstruction; certification that trade, commerce, and transportation of Indians remains wholly outside the authority, control, and regulation of the several states; and protection of Indians' religious freedom and cultural integrity. Although the stand-off in Washington led to little more than the trashing of the BIA headquarters, and to the protesters being given a police escort out of town, Russell Means, writing in his autobiography, says that author and attorney Vine Deloria, Jr. considers Hank Adams one of the greatest Indians of the twentieth century.

Historical Context

  • The Life and Times of Hank Adams (1944-)
  • At the time of Adams's birth:
  • D-Day; Allied forces land on Normandy beaches on June 6
  • Jew Otto Frank and his family, including daughter Anne, are betrayed to Gestapo in Amsterdam
  • U.S. Supreme Court decided an American cannot be denied the right to vote because of color
  • U.S. National System of Interstate Highways was established
  • An American Dilemma by Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal explored history of U.S. black-white relations
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States
  • The times:
  • 1939-1945: World War II
  • 1950-1953: Korean War
  • 1957-1975: Vietnam War
  • Adams's contemporaries:
  • Jesse Jackson (1941-) American politician and civil rights leader
  • Angela Davis (1944-) American political activist
  • Bob Marley (1945-1981) Jamaican reggae musician
  • Steven Biko (1946-1977) South African political activist
  • Bill Clinton (1946-) American president
  • Octavia E. Butler (1947-) American writer
  • Selected world events:
  • 1945: Television was licensed for commercial use in the U.S.
  • 1948: Apartheid instituted in South Africa
  • 1952: McCarran-Walter Act restricted entry of certain immigrants to U.S.
  • 1954: U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional
  • 1955: Martin Luther King, Jr. leads bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama
  • 1962: Native Americans received voting rights
  • 1972: Terrorists kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes at Munich Olympic Games
  • 1981: U.S. hostages in Iran are released
  • 1990: Nelson Mandela released from prison in South Africa

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