The Nooksack 306 share their message at the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018. Photo: The Nooksack 306
National | Politics

Nooksack Tribe elects felon as chairman after kicking out 306 people again



The Nooksack Tribe has a new slate of leaders, including a convicted felon who is serving as chairman.

Roswell "Ross" Cline pleaded guilty on May 5, 2000, to stealing funds from the tribe, Indian Country Today reported at the time. Exactly 18 years later, he defeated Jeremiah I. Johnny, according to the unofficial results.

With his new post, Cline succeeds longtime chairman Bob Kelly. Kelly had come in third, out of field of five, during a primary on April 7, according to the unofficial results, so he didn't advance to the general.

But as the vote approached, Kelly removed hundreds of people from the rolls. A March 24 "notice of involuntary disenrollment" said members of a group known as The Nooksack 306 did not qualify for citizenship.

Unofficial results from the Nooksack Tribe's May 5, 2018, election. Image: Nooksack Indian Tribe Communications Page

"The amount of due process provided to you and your family has been extensive, and yet not once did you, or anyone else from your large family, provide a birth record that would have supported your claims of being a lineal descendant of the Nooksack Tribe or even a Native American," Kelly wrote in a letter accompanying the notice, a copy of which was posted by Turtle Talk.

When Kelly was in office, The Nooksack 306 had won a series of decisions in tribal court that kept them on the rolls. The Obama administration, and then the Trump administration, had taken steps to ensure those facing disenrollment could participate in an election late last year.

But after the Trump administration recognized the results of the election as valid on March 9, Kelly took action against The Nooksack 306.

As a result, the group's members were unable to vote in the most recent election, noted Michelle Roberts, a spokesperson for The Nooksack 306 . And though Kelly is off the council, she said supporters of disenrollment now hold all the seats on the tribe's governing body.

"The rule of law remains dead at Nooksack," Roberts said on Monday. Now that they are off the rolls, The Nooksack 306 have been unable to seek redress in tribal court.


According to KUOW, the people removed from the tribe represent about 15 percent of the citizenry. Reporter Emily Fox, who has covered the story extensively, also confirmed what Roberts said about Cline and the council.

"He is pro disenrollment, so is basically everyone on Tribal Council right now," Fox said of the new chairman.

Read More on the Story:
Nooksack Tribe kicks out family of 300 — again (KUOW May 8, 2018)