DEMING, Wash — The Nooksack Tribal Court continued with its process of evicting dozens of disenrolled members, despite a Washington state Supreme Court decision to stop.
On Wednesday, a conference room inside the Bellingham Public Library served as a courtroom for disenrolled members of the Nooksack Indian Tribe who are fighting to keep their homes.
“I’m not understanding what’s going on when he says I’m not Native American, when he says my house isn’t Native American. My father is from Turtle Mountain Creek, my mother is from Nooksack,” Saturnino Javier told the court via zoom.
Saturnino Javier is among the so-called Nooksack 306 – a group that Tribal Council voted to disenroll claiming a fraudulent ancestral link to the tribe that dates back to the 19th century. The 306 has fought this decision for more than a decade.
Over the winter, dozens of members living on tribal managed land were served eviction notices.
“It’s beyond stressful. You have 86- and 74-year-old elders that are not sure where they will live in a matter of days weeks or months,” said Gabe Galanda, an Indigenous rights lawyer who represents the 306.
It's an eviction process that has gained global attention. Back in February, the United Nations issued a statement calling for the US to “halt” what they called “imminent forced evictions” of former Nooksack Indigenous Tribe members.
“They are at risk of losing those homes and having those homes taken without any form of compensation recompense,” Galanda said.
Just two weeks ago, the Washington Supreme Court intervened, calling for a stop to evictions until the court has time to consider the case. But on Wednesday, via zoom, proceedings continued.
“I’m Native American, and that’s what I am. Want to see my pedigree like a dog or what?” Javier told the court via zoom. “I’m waiting to see the legal document that says I am not Nooksack, I’ve never seen it yet."
Ultimately, no decision was reached by Tribal Court on Wednesday.
For the Nooksack 306, the hearing marked the next step in a procedural saga that spanned a decade.
In a written statement, the Nooksack Tribe said Wednesday's hearing concerned three people who no longer qualify for low-income housing because they have no tribal lineage.
“Nooksack risks losing federal funding for our housing if we rent to unqualified tenants,” the statement reads.