The Nooksack Tribe removed more than 300 people from the rolls last year in an action considered unlawful by the federal government. Photo: The Nooksack 306

Nooksack Tribe loses federal health care funds as disenrollment drama drags on

A clinic operated by the Nooksack Tribe is losing $2.5 million in federal health care funds amid a long-running disenrollment dispute.

The tribe lacks a recognized council so the Indian Health Service pulled the money, KUOW reported. But a federal official said there is a solution for restoring the funds -- hold a legitimate election.

“We totally believe in the sovereignty of the tribe and support that. Whatever the tribe decides to do when they have a duly elected council — if they want to disenroll folks — that’s their tribal business,” Dean Seyler, the director of the Portland Area of the IHS told KUOW.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe has been without a functioning government since March 2016. So the agency considers all subsequent actions, including a decision to remove The Nooksack 306 from the rolls, to be unlawful.

“They're playing Russian roulette with my life,” Deborah Alexander, who was denied treatment at the tribe's clinic due to her disenrollment, told KUOW.

The tribe challenged the loss of an estimated $14 million in federal funds in court. The lawsuit was dismissed because a judge said the current council is not recognized as legitimate.

The tribe also filed an administrative appeal regarding its IHS funding, according to documents posted on Turtle Talk. It too faces questions due to the lack of a recognized council.

Read More on the Story:
Disenrolled Nooksack member: 'They're playing Russian roulette with my life' (KUOW August 8, 2017)

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