The Nooksack Tribal Court continues the expulsion of irregular members

Just two weeks ago, the Washington State Supreme Court stepped in, calling for the evictions to be halted until the court had time to hear the case.

DEMING, WA – The Nooksack Tribal Court has continued its process of expelling dozens of non-affiliated members, despite a Washington State Supreme Court ruling halting it.

On Wednesday, a conference room inside the Bellingham Public Library served as a courtroom for unregistered members of the Nooksack Indian tribe who are fighting to keep their homes.

“I don’t understand what happens when he says I’m not Native American, when he says my house isn’t Native American. My father is from Turtle Mountain Creek, my mother is from Noxack,” Saturnino Javier told the court via zoom.

Saturnino Javier is among the so-called Nooksack 306 – a group whose membership the council of tribes voted to rescind alleging fraudulent association with the tribe dating back to the 19th century. The 306 fought this decision for more than a decade.

During the winter, dozens of individuals living on lands administered by tribes received eviction notices.

“It is very stressful. You have two elders 86 and 74 years old who are not sure where they will live in a matter of days, weeks or months,” said Gabi Galanda, an indigenous rights attorney representing 306.

It’s an evacuation that has received worldwide attention. Last February, the United Nations issued a statement calling on the United States to “stop” what it called the “imminent forced evictions” of members of the former indigenous Noxak tribe.

“They are at risk of losing and taking those homes without any form of compensation,” Galanda said.

Just two weeks ago, the Washington Supreme Court stepped in, calling for the evictions to be halted until the court had time to consider the case. But on Wednesday, via Zoom, the proceedings continued.

“I’m an American citizen, and that’s what I am now. Do you want to see my pedigree like a dog or what?” Javier told the court via zooming in. “I’m waiting to see the legal document that says I’m not a Nooksack, I’ve never seen it yet.”

In the end, no decision was reached by the tribal court on Wednesday.
For Nooksack 306, the hearing was the next step in a decade-long procedural saga.

The Nooksack tribe, in a written statement, said Wednesday’s hearing concerns three people who are no longer eligible for low-income housing because they do not belong to tribal lineage.

“Nooksack risks losing federal funding to our homes if we rent them to ineligible tenants,” the statement read.

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