I was privileged to attend a gathering a few years ago where Billy was speaking, to say he was an inspirational figure hardly does justice as Billy was much more than that.
To me he represented all that the nations should be known for, perhaps most of all his commitment to the rights and quality of life of others.
I place a high value on common sense and integrity, something Billy had an abundance of.
There was a gracious and humble air about Billy that adversaries in the treaty rights fights may have initially interpreted much to their later dismay as being a weakness, such wasn’t the case though as Billy had driven his stake into the ground long ago and would not cede so much as an inch.
When it came to treaty rights Billy was a hardbitten pugilist who never failed to answer the bell, didn’t matter the opponent or the arena, he was always going to get his licks in.
I’ve known other men like Billy, soft spoken, the kind who get lost in the day to day crowd, but when the bell rings they come out swinging and their voice becomes that of a lion. A quality I respect and admire.
Billy’s passing is a profound loss for the nations, there aren’t many like him, and we can ill afford to lose the ones we are gifted with.
Billy understood the fragility of our status as a people, our lack of access and input – he understood that decisions made on the local, national, or global level would impact us as surely as it will all living things, that as minorities we will be hit the hardest.
That an understanding of the issues and a concerted unified response is imperative, his understanding of that reality led to his focus on climate change and the ramifications that accompany it.
Billy’s life can be portrayed as many things, above all the example he set should be seen as both a wake up call and inspirational.
Billy didn’t merely walk on, he was lifted up on the wings of eagles.