Indianz.Com > News > Evictions from Nooksack Tribe housing draw international rebuke
Nooksack Families
The Nooksack Tribe is preparing to evict former citizens and family members, including those pictured here, from federally-funded housing in Washington. Courtesy photo
Evictions from Nooksack Tribe housing draw international rebuke
Thursday, February 3, 2022

Human rights experts from the United Nations are calling on the United States to prevent the evictions of former citizens of the Nooksack Tribe.

In a statement on Thursday, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and Francisco Calí Tzay, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, drew further attention to the plight of The Nooksack 63. Through the unusual public rebuke, they urged the U.S. to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, as enshrined in international law.

“We appeal to the US Government to respect the right to adequate housing, which is enshrined under article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to ensure that it abides by its international obligations, including with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples,” Rajagopal and Calí Tzay said in a statement issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Nooksack Housing
This home in Deming, Washington, is among those occupied by former citizens of the Nooksack Tribe. The occupants face eviction after being removed from the tribal rolls. Courtesy photo

On a number of occasions, UN experts have addressed the mistreatment of American Indian and Alaska Native people. Recent human rights statements have focused on actions taken by governmental and private entities, such as the arrest of a Lakota citizen on his own treaty territory, the dismantling of the Bears Ears National Monument over the objections of tribal nations, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline without tribal consent and even the legacy of racist mascots in professional sports.

The new statement from Rajagopal and Calí Tzay, in comparison, appears to be the first to touch on the controversial issue of tribal disenrollment. The two officials noted that the people being evicted are no longer accepted as citizens by the Nooksack Tribe.

The experts also pointed out that the affected families are slated to be removed from housing that was funded by federal dollars. Several of those being evicted are elderly, including an 85-year-old grandmother.

“We are also concerned that the forced evictions will deny them the possibility of enjoying their own culture and of using their own language in community with others,” said Rajagopal and Calí Tzay, who added that they have been in contact with the Biden administration about the issue.

The Biden administration has taken some steps to address the situation, which has drawn significant media coverage in recent weeks. Along those lines, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has investigated potential violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act, a federal law whose provisions mirror those found in the U.S. Constitution.

Amid the investigation, the Nooksack tribal council agreed to put the evictions on “pause” — at least through February 1.

Additionally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has urged the tribe to ensure that it remains in compliance with federal laws governing Indian housing. Federal funds were used to construct the 22 units that are occupied by former citizens and their families, according to attorney Gabe Galanda, who asked the UN to weigh in on the controversy shortly before the Christmas holiday.

“These evictions violate United States law, policy and procedure, and the Nooksack 63’s human right to adequate housing, including access to their ‘native culture and language ‘in community with the other members’’ of their group,” Galanda wrote in the December 15 appeal.

The BIA has not publicly announced the results of its investigation. An inquiry about the issue was made on Thursday afternoon to media offices at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

The Nooksack Tribe has removed hundreds of people from the rolls in recent years. The group, which includes those facing eviction, is frequently referred to as The Nooksack 306.

Nooksack leaders have repeatedly defended the right of their tribe, as a sovereign government, to determine who belongs.

Related Stories
Nooksack Tribe puts housing evictions on ‘pause’ amid high-level attention (February 2, 2022)
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)