The Nooksack Tribe of Washington has begun removing more than 300 people from the rolls. Photo by The Nooksack 306

Bureau of Indian Affairs rebuffs Nooksack Tribe on disenrollment

The Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to take a strong stance against the Nooksack Tribe of Washington amid an ongoing disenrollment dispute.

Last week, the tribe said its members voted overwhelmingly to remove a group known as The Nooksack 306 from the rolls. But since the referendum was not open to all citizens and was called by a council that lacks a quorum, the BIA won't recognize the results.

"Accordingly, until a council is seated through an election consistent with tribal law and the decisions of the Northwest Intertribal Court System, we will not recognize any 'referendum election' including the purported results posted on the tribe's Facebook page on November 4, 2016, claiming to disenroll current tribal citizens or any other action inconsistent with the plain language of the tribe's laws," Larry Roberts, the de facto leader of the BIA, wrote in a November 14 letter to Nooksack Chairman Bob Kelly.

Last month, Roberts warned Kelly about the lack of a quorum and said the BIA would not recognize a series of actions taken since March. But the tribe went ahead with the referendum and began "immediately" removing The Nooksack 306 through 10-minute hearings conducted via telephone.

"I only got 5 minutes of my 10 minutes for the charade conference call," Maxina Rabang said in an account posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

The tribe also scheduled an election to fill the vacant seats on the council. Since the primary takes place December 17, anyone from The Nooksack 306 who is removed by that time won't be able to vote.

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