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Sunday, July 15, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Obituary: Quinault leader Guy McMinds revered lands, waters
By Javier Panzar
Seattle Times staff reporter
Guy McMinds, a longtime Quinault Indian Nation leader whose commanding but compassionate persona helped solidify Indian treaty rights and protect natural resources, died Monday. He was 75.
An avid fisherman and strong advocate of native rights and tribal governments, Mr. McMinds was involved in Indian protests surrounding fishing rights that led to the Boldt Decision in 1974 affirming the rights of tribes to fish in Washington.
Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, called Mr. McMinds one of the nation's founding fathers for his part in developing its constitution and later expanding the role of tribal government in resource management.
Sharp, who went to school with Mr. McMinds' daughter Jeanne McMinds, called him a colorful figure who inspired many with his vision for preserving the tribe's ancestral waters and deep belief in tribal sovereignty.
"He had an extremely deep connection with our lands, and he did everything he could to ensure it would be available for future generations," she said.
Mr. McMinds graduated from Moclips High School in 1955 and served two years in the U.S. Army before earning a Fisheries Science degree from the University of Washington in 1966. He went on to become a founding member of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a consortium of treaty tribes that act together on conservation and management issues.
With a deep voice and a matter-of-fact tone, Mr. McMinds could command any room where tribal issues were being discussed, said Charles Wilkinson, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School.
Wilkinson facilitated talks between the National Park Service and several Washington tribes a few years ago, and he recalled a meeting where Mr. McMinds stood up and excoriated a roomful of federal officials for not working with the tribes to manage park lands.•
"I remember him really breathing fire and just saying: You got to work with us better because these salmon are sacred to us and those lands are scared to us and we expect better results," he said. "It was vintage Guy."
Steve Robinson, who served as a policy analyst for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said Mr. McMinds had a humorous demeanor outside of the political arena but also loved to talk about policy issues. Robinson said he cherished the times Mr. McMinds would walk into his office to talk tribal matters with him.
Sharp, the Quinault nation president, said Mr. McMinds became a father figure to many younger members of the nation. He developed a reputation as an educator who mentored many of the younger members of the Quinault community, along with his own eight adopted children and 13 grandchildren.
Sharp recalled that once, when she came back from college on break, Mr. McMinds found out she had never caught a steelhead trout before. He promptly marched her out the door early in the morning and the pair headed out in his drift boat.
"For a half an hour I wrestled with a 30-pound steelhead and he just sat there saying, 'Reel it in or give it line,' " she said. "He didn't want me to graduate from college never having caught a steelhead."
Mr. McMinds is survived by his wife, Ruth McMinds, of Taholah; sons Billy Sansom, of Amanda Park; Andrew Comenout McMinds, of Aberdeen; Chris McMinds, of Taholah; daughters Jeanne McMinds, of Olympia, Edna Lance, of Seattle, Shannon McMinds, of Tacoma, Sylvan McMinds, of Taholah, Sunny Adams, of Montesano; and 13 grandchildren.
Javier Panzar: 206-464-2253 or email@example.com. On twitter @jpanzar
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