Minoru Yasui and Billy Frank Jr. are two of the 17 recipients that President Barack Obama will honor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Both men have worked hard to change the things that have happened to Japanese Americans and Native Americans in the United States history.
Civil and human rights leader, the late Minoru Yasui, has been picked to receive the Presidency Medal of Freedom. Minoru, an American of Japanese descent, went to law school and he graduated from the University of Oregon. A long part of his life was devoted to the military curfew implemented during World War II because Japanese Americans were under a curfew and were forced to live in concentration camps.
Minoru deliberately went out after curfew and he was arrested. He took a stand against the curfew claiming it was racially unjust against Japanese Americans. However, that didn’t stop him from caused him to spend nine months in solitary confinement. He continued to fight for the injustice and died in 1987, unable to overturn the conviction.
Representative Mike Honda said, “Mr.Yasui was an American civil rights leader who bravely challenged our government’s incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry in WWII in the Supreme Court. This medal expresses our country’s appreciation for the continued lessons we learn from his courage and lifetime of advocating for civil rights, providing legal assistance to Japanese American and immigrant communities and building bridges with communities of color.”
Time after time, the court upheld the military curfew, and even though his case was later vacated, he never could overturn the conviction. Unfortunately, he passed away ending his case as he knew it.
The late Billy Frank Jr., a member of the Nisqually Tribe, worked for Native American Rights and environmental stewardship and preservation of salmon. He was involved in the “fish wars” during the 1960s and 1970s, and he was active in In Washington as he tried to reaffirm the tribal co-management of salmon. He wanted the fishing laws changed so the Native Americans were exempt from it. He wanted the laws to revert back to honor their treaties signed by the United States years ago. It wasn’t until the S. District Court Judge George H. Boldt ruled in favor of the Treaty Tribes on Feb. 12, 1974.
The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission was created in 1974, following a Supreme Court decision “that re-affirmed the Tribes’ treaty-reserved fishing rights and established them as natural resources co-managers with the State of Washington” and serves “to assist member tribes in their role as natural resources co-managers.” Billy Frank remained the chairman until his death.
Billy Frank Jr. passed away in May 2014, at the age of 83. During his lifetime, he was arrested over 50 times for allegedly fishing illegally, when he refused to adhere to the state-imposed laws that limited the fishing season.He fought hard to reinstate the fishing promises made in the treaties