Nooksack Citizens Elect Four New Council Members, Return Recalled Member To Office

Richard Walker

In a special election held on July 14, Nooksack citizens elected four interim Tribal Council members to fill four vacant seats.

More than 200 citizens, convening as the Nooksack General Council, invoked authority given to them by the Nooksack constitution and conducted the election after the former Nooksack council failed to do so when four terms expired in March.

Online news site reported that the July 14 election took place in the nearby community of Deming, off the Nooksack reservation, so there could be no interference by Nooksack police or other authorities.

According to election documents Bob Doucette, a member of the Nooksack council in the 1970s, was elected vice chairman. Bernadine Roberts, also a former council member, was elected treasurer. Jeremiah Johnny and Ron Roberts were elected to two council positions. Citizens also invalidated Carmen Tageant’s recall from the Tribal Council and retuned her to office.

The new council members succeed Rick D. George, Katherine Canete, Lona Johnson and Agripina Smith.

The newly elected officers were sworn in by election superintendent George Adams and join Chairman Bob Kelly, Secretary Nadene Rapada and member Bob Solomon on the council.

A July 19 letter signed by all council members except for Kelly and Solomon, was sent to BIA regional director Stanley M. Speaks with a request for him to “intercede on behalf of all Nooksack Tribal members in causing a supervised election for the four Tribal Council positions that expired on or about March 19, 2016.”

As a result of the special election, the Tribal Council now consists of a majority of members who oppose the disenrollment of the so-called Nooksack 306 (upwards of 300 tribal members whose common ancestor was not included on a historic roll as required.) Supporters of the Nooksack 306 point to documentation that the ancestor, Annie S. George, was the daughter of Matsqui George, leader of a Nooksack village in what is now British Columbia.

The Kelly administration has gone to great lengths to defend its efforts to disenroll. The Nooksack Tribe Communications Page made no mention of the election, although it has carried daily updates related to the Canoe Journey, the annual gathering now underway. “There is no room for compromise on this issue,” Chairman Kelly told ICTMN during a social media chat exchange. “The 306 need to meet the membership criteria just like everyone else did. To date, they have refused to provide the necessary documentation that would substantiate their claims of being Nooksack. We did an extensive nationwide search in Canada and the United States and were unable to find any documentation to support their claims that they are even Native American…. We find it odd that not one Native American has come forward to tell us that what we are doing is wrong because the 306 are part of their family tree. We have heard from enraged families who are upset that the 306 claim to be members of their family.”

Chairman Kelly, representing Nooksack, reportedly continued with plans to join the Lummi Nation in co-hosting the Canoe Journey’s visit there. Meanwhile, the Shxha:y Village Canoe Family and new Nooksack leadership hosted the Canoe Journey’s visit to nearby Birch Bay; that hosting included the launching of three new canoes called the Three Sisters, honoring the three daughters of Annie George.

According to one source, a new council could end the disenrollment effort by resolution, “but the focus right now is a federally supervised election for the four seats, which have now been filled on an interim basis, so that legitimacy in the Tribal Council can be restored in the eyes of the people. In the meantime, disenrollment is stayed by multiple court orders.”

Chairman Kelly held firm in his stance. “There is not a general council provision in the Nooksack Tribe's constitution,” he said, “and the recent election is not valid.”

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