A Northwest take on the Nobel Peace Prize

Maybe next year for Billy Frank, Jr.

Maybe next year for Billy Frank, Jr.

If Las Vegas had accepted wagers on Friday's Nobel Peace Prize (there must be a receptive Sin City bookie) I would have bet on "no recipient" or perhaps on Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese writer and dissident who has galvanized support across the globe and the PRC and did win the prize.

Sadly, this has been a year of bloodletting unbound, and the Nobel Committee has a history of voting for none-of-the-above, most recently in 1972, 1967, and 1966. It's a cold, illustrative gesture by a committee of cold, Nordic depressives that peacemaking, like life, is ephemeral. 

Liu Xiaobo merits recognition for his courage and leadership advancing Charter 08, a manifesto that calls for human rights and constitutional government in China. Vaclav Havel, in arguing for Liu, compares Charter 08 to Czechoslovakia's Charter 77 of three decades ago. "That document called on the Communist Party to respect human rights, and said clearly that we no longer wanted to live in fear of state repression," Havel writes.

There is a political dimension to a Liu nod, but that's fine. The Chinese, soon to rule the world, demand some human rights humbling. Moreover, think of Jimmy Carter's 2002 Nobel (message: W. don't invade Iraq) and President Obama last year (message: Thank you America for a post-W world). The Nobel committee is comprised of political animals, and sometimes they make inspired choices.  

The first and only Northwest Peace Nobelist was that pusher of all-things Vitamin C and disarmament-related, Linus Pauling.  Pauling was born in Portland and educated at Oregon State. He also won the Nobel for Chemistry in 1954.

My Nobel Peace Prize candidate after tomorrow is also a Northwesterner: Billy Frank Jr. Frank was one of the seminal figures during the Indian fish-ins of the 1960s and 70s, a campaign that culminated in the 1974 Boldt decision. Frank is noteworthy because he made the jump from activist of the MLK non-violent civil disobedience school to the administrative, political maw of natural resources management (for 30 years he's been chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission).

Frank sews together indigenous rights, environmental sustainability and, yes, peacemaking of the methodical, mind-numbing sort (incremental steps and thousands and thousands of meetings).

Too far afield or random? Not necessarily. Who understands the intense politics of fishing and fisheries conservation better than the Norwegians? When the committee musters all the facts about Billy Frank, Jr.'s life and leadership, chances are they'll preface their 2011 Nobel announcement with, "Sorry this took so damn long."


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson