Court pauses Washington tribe’s evictions for ousted members

Jun 9, 2022, 6:39 PM | Updated: 7:17 pm

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has temporarily halted evictions for people living in certain households on Nooksack Tribal Land who were contentiously disenrolled from the tribe.

A panel of justices on Tuesday granted an injunction requiring the Nooksack Indian Tribe in northwestern Washington to pause the evictions while the high court determines whether to take up the case, Cascadia Daily News reported.

The households involved in the suit are home to members of a group of more than 300 people who were formally removed from the Nooksack Indian Tribe in 2016 and 2018. They have been facing the threat of eviction for years.

Tribal leaders have said the families known as the “Nooksack 306” were incorrectly enrolled in the 1980s and cannot prove their lineage adequately.

The Nooksack members being threatened with eviction are both Filipino and Native American, or what some call “Indipino.” Gabe Galanda, attorney for the families, told KNKX Public Radio his clients are being singled out in part because of that, though he said this kind of mixed identity is common among Native peoples.

Galanda has said nearly all the homes in question were developed as rent-to-own, which means his clients should own their homes or hold equity.

Earlier this year, experts from the United Nations called on the federal government to intervene and prevent the evictions, raising concerns about the welfare of the residents.

The families and Galanda have contested the ousting efforts, gaining attention as leading opponents of tribal disenrollment, an increasing practice that can involve struggles over power and resources, and questions about culture and identity.

In central California, the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians voted to expel dozens of members in 2019 from a share of casino profits and other benefits of tribal membership. The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde in Oregon in the past decade also disenrolled tribal members they said no longer satisfied enrollment rules.

Tribal expulsions started in the 1990s along with the establishment of casinos, and have continued as gambling revenues skyrocketed. Critics say the disenrollments have also been used as a way to settle political infighting and family and personal feuds.

In a statement, the Nooksack Indian Tribe said it owns the land and the housing in question, manages the properties, and is the landlord on the leases with all the tenants involved in the case.

“We are confident that once the Court examines the true facts, rather than unfounded claims for the disenrolled tenants, that it will dismiss the case,” the statement said.

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Court pauses Washington tribe’s evictions for ousted members