Even before the feds sign off on election results for the Nooksack tribe, the chairman said he will move ahead with a renewed attempt to kick out some 300 people he says are not rightfully tribal members.
Nooksack tribal chairman Bob Kelly said he plans to start a new round of disenrollment hearings this week after an election that seemed to favor incumbents but was clouded by allegations of fraud.
Kelly and his council allies have been trying for five years to kick roughly 300 members out of the tribe, launching a divisive dispute about lineage and power that has gotten national attention, sparked federal intervention and raised broader questions about tribal disenrollment nationwide.
Last weekend’s tribal-council election was in part a referendum on disenrollment. The four incumbents said they favor purging the tribal rolls, while their challengers oppose doing so.
In an email referring to those targeted for disenrollment, Kelly said: “At this point we have no reason to believe that they are Native Americans and we will proceed with a second round of disenrollment hearings as soon as the election is certified by the election board later this week.”
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According to an agreement between the tribe and the federal government, however, the Bureau of Indian Affairs must approve election results for the Nooksack government to be considered legitimate.
The four challengers already have filed a protest with the tribe’s election board and will submit another one to the BIA, according to their lawyer, Gabriel Galanda, who also represents those facing disenrollment.
The candidates allege multiple irregularities, including a change of rules lending itself to ballot-stuffing and bribery by offering individual payouts to members if the incumbents won.
“All of their allegations are absurd and not true,” Kelly wrote. He said the charges were an attempt to shift the conversation from their inability to prove Nooksack lineage as required for membership.
The 300 say they have offered such proof, but were given no opportunity to make their case in the last round of telephonic disenrollment hearings, which lasted as little as 10 minutes.
The Nooksack saga shows no signs of ending soon. Even with results of this election in contention, the tribe this week is supposed to start the next election process. Kelly is up for re-election.