Today marks the six-year anniversary of the day when the Nooksack 306 were first proposed for disenrollment from the Nooksack Tribe: December 19, 2012.
With the year 2018 marked by the Trump Administration’s abrupt abandonment of an Obama Administration Nooksack reconstruction plan, further tribal governmental disarray and civil rights violations in Deming, and the passing of several Nooksack elders while purportedly disenrolled, the new year promises to also be trying for everyone at Nooksack.
“I’m confident there will be a reckoning at Nooksack in 2019,” said the Nooksack 306’s lawyer, Gabriel S. Galanda. “You simply can’t erase all of the fingerprints from years and years of corruption and fraud.”
There are signs of hope for the Nooksack 306 that the pervasive corruption in their tribe will still be exposed and remedied. On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals awarded several Nooksack Plaintiffs nearly $91,000 in attorneys’ fees as prevailing parties in an appeal from their federal civil RICO lawsuit against former Nooksack Chairman Bob Kelly and his fellow “Holdover” Defendants.
The award results from those defendants’ voluntary dismissal of their appeal to the Ninth Circuit after Senior Judge Richard Clifton referred to Kelly and Nooksack as “tin-pot dictator of a banana republic” in March 2018.
That RICO suit is now back before the Ninth Circuit on a second appeal brought by the Nooksack Plaintiffs, after U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour dismissed the action in July 2018, concluding that the Court no longer had subject matter jurisdiction once the Trump Administration certified the results of a December 2017 Nooksack Tribal Council special election.
Judge Coughenour noted:
The Court “does not at all think, as Defendants suggest, that ‘the cloud over the Tribe’ has been removed. Plaintiffs’ allegations against Defendants, which have been well documented in this lawsuit and elsewhere, are highly concerning. Nevertheless, it is for the Nooksack Tribe, not this Court, to resolve Plaintiffs’ claims.”
Observing that former Nooksack Tribal Attorney and named RICO defendant Ray Dodge is still Tribal Court Chief Judge and that he has not allowed several Nooksack members’ civil rights lawsuits to proceed to any hearing since April 2016, Galanda explained that there is no legitimate opportunity to resolve Plaintiffs’ claims in Deming.
“Nooksack remains a lawless place,” continued Galanda. “The rule of law remains dead there.”
That is consistent with the facts that a lawsuit against Nooksack Police Chief Mike Ashby for assaulting and battering former Nooksack Councilwoman Carmen Tageant in early 2018 remains pending before a state Superior Court; and the newly recognized Nooksack Tribal Chairman Ross Cline previously plead guilty to two federal counts of embezzling Nooksack tribal housing monies.
That reality is also consistent with how the Nooksack Plaintiffs have framed their appeal to the Ninth Circuit:
“Affirming the District Court would inoculate racketeering conspiracies that infiltrate tribal governments from the force of RICO. While RICO would continue to deter individuals from conspiring to defraud federal, state, and local governments, tribal governments would be left uniquely exposed to mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. The Court should prevent Indian Country from pretend-governmental racketeering.”
The Ninth Circuit is expected to decide the matter in mid to late 2019.
Meanwhile, the four Nooksack candidates who reportedly lost the December 2017 special election await a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly regarding whether their action against former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and several remaining Trump Administration officials can proceed.
After the Trump Administration rubber stamped the special election results and re-recognized the Tribal Council in March 2018, those four plaintiffs sued, asking the Court for equitable relief “ordering Defendants to determine whether the special election was held in accordance with Tribal law,” after Interior officials “decline[d] to…interpret tribal law” as required to entertain proof of ballot stuffing.
According to the four Nooksack candidates:
“After Interior officials in Washington, D.C. and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials in Portland, Oregon, jointly adhered to an established policy of interpreting Nooksack law to determine whether the Tribal Council was validly seated, on six occasions between October 17, 2016 and January 16, 2018, the Trump Administration suddenly departed from that policy on a seventh occasion in March 2018.”
A decision is expected from Judge Zilly at any time.
All the while, the Nooksack 306 have been denied federally funded Indian health care and other vital social services since March 2018, when the newly recognized Tribal Council took immediate action to retroactively “ratify” hundreds of decisions made by the Holdover Council in late 2016 to telephonically disenroll the Nooksack 306.
The purported new Tribal Council ignores a federal administrative stay of disenrollment at Nooksack that has been in place since 2014, and also pretends that several Tribal Court disenrollment injunction orders were vacated when the Holdover Council became the “Nooksack Supreme Court” in 2016.
“It’s all pretend and it gives tribal sovereignty a really bad name,” according to Galanda.
Worst of all, under that entire shroud of disgrace, several Nooksack 306 elders passed away over the last year.
“Dishonoring tribal death rites with disenrollment is beyond the pale,” concluded Galanda. “But our folks are resilient—and no amount of dishonor will deter them from staying true to who they are and to where they belong.”