TAHOLAH — Guy “Big Butch” McMinds, 75, was remembered Friday as a leader of the Quinault Indian Nation for the past 50 years at a funeral ceremony that drew several hundred family members and witnesses from tribes and non-tribal governments as well as friends and dignitaries.
McMinds’ influence reached far beyond Quinault’s borders to tribes throughout the country and even internationally. Ray Fryberg of the Tulalip Tribes characterized the strength and commitment of McMinds when he told a story going back to the early 1980s.
When tribal officials meeting with state officials on natural resource management issues were relegated seats at the back of the meeting room, Fryberg recalled, it was McMinds who grabbed steel chairs and slammed them down at the head table for tribal leaders, saying that is where they belonged.
“Wherever Guy went and whoever he was talking to, he would not let the tribes take a back seat to anyone,” said Fryberg.
State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, who contracts with the Quinault Tribe, said McMinds hired him when he was a young man and he has worked for the tribe ever since in forestry. He extended condolences to the McMinds family, tribe and friends on behalf of all government officials, saying the officials knew McMinds as someone with a booming voice, but also as a friend.
Hargrove said the Timber-Fish-Wildlife Agreement is an example of McMinds’ hard work: “This is just an example of the many things this great man was involved in that brought us all many benefits through cooperation.”
Letters of condolence also were received from Gov. Chris Gregoire and Congressman Norm Dicks.
Blaine Gobin of the Tulalip Tribes underscored that fact when he said, “Guy was a leader in education, health care, the federal allocation system and in many other ways. Many of the things we have today we have because Guy fought the hard fight to get them.”
Fawn Sharp, the president of the Quinault Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said McMinds was her mentor.
“He was a visionary and a genius and I loved him,” Sharp said. “He had an open home that was full of so much love and he encouraged everyone he met to do their best. He taught young people that even they have a duty to respect the land and he would even tell elders that they had a duty to work with young people. He was a rock.”
Billy Frank Jr., long time chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said McMinds provided the impetus the tribes needed to become leaders in the Northwest.
“I can hear his fist banging down on the table even now, and when he did that people knew he meant business,” Frank said. “When the actions he took lead to the closure of Quinault’s 23 miles of beach, people knew Guy meant business. Now you find razor clams on that 23 miles; you sure don’t find them on the beaches managed by the state. But our journey isn’t over. It’s our job to keep working, as Guy would want us to, and bring the salmon back, get the poisons out of the water and work together in the process. That is the legacy that this great friend has left us.”
McMinds was born on October 7, 1937, in Aberdeen, to Guy McMinds and Marguerite Law McMinds. He graduated from the University of Washington and spent a lifetime protecting Indian treaty rights. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Ruth, two brothers, Ed Johnstone and Willy Johnstone; two sisters, Tootsie Hudson and Lillian Johnstone, eight adopted children, Jeanne McMinds, Edna Lance, Shannon McMinds, Sylvan McMinds, Billy Sansom, Andrew Comenout McMinds, Sunny Adams, Chris McMinds and 13 grandchildren. His body was interred at the Quinault Indian Nation Tribal Cemetery.