Disputed leader of Nooksack Tribe blames 'non-Indians' for crisis

The Nooksack Tribe of Washington is under fire in federal court after disenrolling more than 300 of its citizens. Photo: The Nooksack 306

The disputed leader of the Nooksack Tribe continues to blame "non-Indians" for a governance crisis that has attracted the attention of the Trump administration.

Bob Kelly has served as chairman of the Washington-based tribe for years but the Department of the Interior does not recognizes him or his council as legitimate. His faction has maintained its grip on power by removing critics from the rolls, refusing to schedule elections and taking over the tribe's judiciary, according to the agency.

In an email to The Seattle Times, Kelly called the claims, which are contained in a strongly-worded brief filed by federal government attorneys, “absurd and based on lies.” He pinned the controversy on a group known as The Nooksack 306, whom he contends do not qualify for tribal citizenship.

“The fact of the matter is that we have a group of non-Indians attempting to take over control of a federally recognized tribe with the assistance of a few bad apples within the Department of Interior,” Kelly told The Times. He had referred to the group as "non-Indians" when the tribe removed them from the rolls last year.

Kelly's faction is asking a judge to release an estimated $14 million in Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal funds that are being held up as part of the dispute. A decision is expected by the end of April, The Times reported.

Read More on the Story:
Feds call Nooksack tribal council ‘illegitimate’ and ‘abusive’ (The Seattle Times 4/6)

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