Indianz.Com > News > Nooksack Tribe puts housing evictions on ‘pause’ amid high-level attention
Morning Update Show: Gabe Galanda Indigenous Rights Lawyer – Nooksack Tribal Disenrollment – January 5, 2022 [Segment starts around 23:10]
Nooksack Tribe puts housing evictions on ‘pause’ amid high-level attention
Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Former citizens of the Nooksack Tribe have won temporary respite from being evicted from their federally-funded homes in Washington state.

The tribe agreed to put the evictions on “pause” until Tuesday, Vice Chair Rick George wrote in an email to Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. The move came as the Biden administration investigates a situation that has been attracting more high-level attention in recent weeks.

“I am hopeful that this investigation will be the last, as this issue has been depriving deserving enrolled Nooksack tribal members of housing for more than six years,” George wrote in the January 12 message.

A copy of the email was posted on social media on Wednesday by Gabe Galanda, an attorney who has represented Nooksack people who have been disenrolled from the tribe. He believes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which Newland oversees, has been taking “historic” steps to address the rights of individuals in Indian Country.

“The BIA’s statement marks the second time the Biden administration has professed a commitment to protecting Indigenous individuals’ human rights from violation by tribal governments, and a break from modern administrations that focused almost exclusively on supporting tribal self-determination rights,” Galanda wrote in a blog post after the Biden administration provided a response to a mainstream media story about The Nooksack 306.

Despite the concession to delay the evictions, the tribe has consistently asserted its sovereign right to determine who is entitled to citizenship. Nooksack leaders, including Chair Roswell “Ross” Cline Sr., have long said those who have been disenrolled are “non-Indians” who don’t belong — a contention rejected by a former council member.

“The experts, the agree with us, that you we are Nooksack,” Robert “Bobby” Rabang Sr. said in a video posted by The Nooksack 306 on Wednesday.

“That really hurts,” Rabang said of efforts to push out his family and others. “We’re going to fight until the end.”

The tribe began initiating eviction proceedings shortly before the Christmas holiday. The development prompted the BIA to warn Chair Cline about moving forward too quickly.

“There are extremely concerning allegations of potential Civil Rights Act and Indian Civil Rights Act violations regarding these evictions,” BIA Director Darryl LaCounte wrote in an email on December 23.

“We respectfully ask that you delay your eviction proceedings for at least thirty days to provide us with time to complete our review and consider all of the evidence surrounding this situation,” LaCounte stated.

By that time, though, the tribe had already been warned by the Biden administration about going forward with the evictions. The Department of the Interior, as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, asked Cline on two separate occasions last fall to respect the rights of individual Indians and to ensure the tribal housing program lives up to conditions of its receipt of federal funds.

“The Department takes HUD’s concern seriously and will review the situation to ensure the tribe is in compliance with ICRA and federal law,” Assistant Secretary Newland at Interior wrote of possible violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act, or ICRA. The letter was sent on October 5, about a month after a HUD letter to Cline.

According to a fundraising page set up Toni Jones, who is among those who have been disenrolled from the tribe, 63 people are facing eviction. They include elderly residents as old as 85, and families with young children.

“As part of a political power grab, Nooksack politicians claim the ‘Nooksack 63’ are ‘”non-Indians’ who do not belong in the tribe, where they have lived as citizens for decades,” the fundraiser states.

The tribe has long received funds from the Indian Housing Block Grant Program (IHBG) at HUD. The tribe is expected to be awarded $978,771 in fiscal year 2022, according to a preliminary allocation amount provided by the Office of Native American Programs (ONAP) at the agency.

IHGB awards are based on a formula that takes into account multiple factors, one of the most important being the population of American Indians and Alaska Natives in a tribal nation’s service area. The Nooksack Tribe’s FY2022 “AI/AN persons” figure is 2,379, according to ONAP.

The “AI/AN persons” data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which relies on self-identification of race or ethnicity.

To calculate a funding award, HUD looks at a tribe’s housing “Needs” in a portion of the formula that is tied on the Census data. So a higher figure should result in a larger grant, independent of a tribe’s citizenship base.

The Nooksack Tribe’s FY 2022 enrollment figure is indeed lower — 1,820, according to data kept by ONAP. The tribe’s housing program presumably benefits from the presence of non-enrolled citizens.

“We are at a crossroads in United States and Indigenous history,” Cam Foreman, a military veteran whose family was removed from the Redding Rancheria, wrote in Indianz.Com last week.

“For the first time we have Indigenous people leading departments of the federal government that were formed for the purpose of controlling and exterminating Indigenous peoples,” Foreman said in drawing attention to the issue of tribal disenrollment. “It is time to demand that Indigenous Americans receive the same human rights protections as those who have arrived in the U.S. over the last 500 years.”

Related Stories
Gabe Galanda: Biden administration takes a stand on Indian civil rights (January 25, 2022)
Cam Foreman: Human rights abuses continue in Indian Country (January 25, 2022)
Native America Calling: Nooksack disenrollees at a crossroads (January 13, 2022)
Gabe Galanda: The forgotten plight of the disenrolled in Indian Country (October 6, 2020)