‘Nooksack 306’ Wards Off Disenrollment With Multiple Legal Actions
Two members of the “Nooksack 306” – Nooksack Indian Tribe citizens who are fighting disenrollment – are awaiting an appeals court ruling on a case involving their alleged unconstitutional removal from the tribal council.
Council members Michelle Roberts and Rudy St. Germaine, along with more than 270 of the members targeted for disenrollment, filed a motion in Nooksack Tribal Court of Appeals February 18 seeking an emergency review of a February 7 order by Nooksack Tribal Court Chief Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, denying an injunction to stop Council Chairman Robert Kelly and other defendants from removing Roberts and St. Germaine from the council and reinstate them to their elected positions. Montoya-Lewis said the council had the power to remove them and that the court did not have the power to deal with the political aspects of the events.
According to the court documents, Kelly called three emergency meetings over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, effectively blocked Roberts and St. Germaine from attending the meeting via teleconference and, at the last meeting, led the council in removing them from office for missing three meetings.
The motion to the Nooksack Tribal Court of Appeals asking for a review of Montoya-Lewis’s order is the latest action in a long series of legal moves that have taken place since February 2013, when the tribal council under Kelly’s direction passed Resolution 13-02: Initiating Involuntary Disenrollment for Certain Descendants of Annie James (George). The common thread among the 306 members facing disenrollment is their mixed Filipino and American Indian heritage. Moreno Peralta, spokesman for the families, told Indian Country Today Media Network that the families believe they are being dispossessed of their Nooksack identity because of their mixed Nooksack and Filipino ancestry.
Attorney Gabriel Galanda of the Seattle firm of Galanda Broadman is representing the Nooksack 306 and has challenged a number of Montoya-Lewis’s rulings in support of the tribal council before the Nooksack Tribal Court of Appeals. The appeals court ordered a halt to the disenrollment process while the legal issues are under review, ruling tribal membership is not tied to a 1942 federal census, as the Kelly Faction has maintained since starting to disenroll the Nooksack 306 last February. More than a dozen members of the Nooksack 306, including Roberts, say that since the disenrollment effort began they have been fired from jobs with the tribe and others have been denied tribal housing assistance, even though they have not yet been removed from tribal membership rolls.
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