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Why the potential closure of Seattle's National Archives is so controversial

Historian Feliks Banel explains what documents are in the archives and what this closure would mean to our community, especially our local tribes.

SEATTLE — Earlier this year, the federal government announced that Seattle's National Archives would be closing and moving to California.

The decision, which was made without local public comment, upset many in our community and even has Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson considering suing the federal government.

Historian Feliks Banel has been closely following this story and in this interview talks about how important the archives are to native tribes in the Pacific Northwest. 

"We talked to some people they say they can sort of feel their ancestors in these documents," Banel said.

The archives in Sand Point hold original important federal records dating back more than 150 years for four states — Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska — and many Pacific Northwest tribes. Less than 1 percent of the materials has been digitized, Banel said.

"Local history, regional history, it's only really useful of you have access to it," Banel said. "So if you take these things, pack 'em up and ship them away a thousand miles, it really takes away things that belong to us." 

Banel thinks the archives building is frequently used despite what reports say, and he believes moving the facility to California would create a barrier of access to those seeking to find information. A National Archives building in Alaska previously relocated to Seattle, forcing people in Alaska to travel to search for records relating to their families or history.

"It's like this priceless cultural DNA that if you move it away, it's like it's forgotten," Banel said.

Segment Producer Joseph Suttner. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.comContact New Day. 

RELATED: Washington AG says legal action possible over closure of Seattle's national archives