On December 19, 2012, Nooksack Tribal member Terry St. Germane sought to have his children enrolled with the Nooksack Tribe by Christmas time. The next thing he knew, he and over 300 of his relatives were proposed for disenrollment.
Today marks the seven-year anniversary of the day when that extended family, commonly known as the Nooksack 306, were first slated for disenrollment by a faction of Nooksack politicians.
The seven-year saga has been well chronicled, particularly since 2016 when a Tribal Council faction refused to hold an election for four expired seats and incinerated the entire Nooksack government in an effort to forgo that election and carry out their mass disenrollment scheme.
The Council faction fired Tribal Court Chief Judge Susan Alexander and replaced her with Tribal Attorney Ray Dodge, and disbarred the 306's lawyers of record Galanda Broadman, PLLC, at Dodge's request. After former Police Chief Rory Gilliland was held in contempt by the Tribal Court of Appeals, they sued that appeals court and enjoined it from further operations. They even created a Nooksack Supreme Court and appointed themselves as "Justices," before purportedly disenrolling the 306 via ten-minute teleconferences.
That parade of fraud and malfeasance caused the Obama Administration to invalidate each of those actions in 2016 and cease federal funding and recognition of the Tribe through 2017.
“Nooksack is now a case study on how tribes should not ‘govern,’” said Gabe Galanda, counsel for the 306. “That faction has ruined Nooksack and made a mockery of tribal self-determination.”
The legal saga continues
Although Nooksack Tribe was re-recognized by the Trump Administration in March of 2018 after a dubious special election, the Tribe remains mired in legal controversy.
Galanda has multiple lawsuits pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and Whatcom County Superior Court. His clients also have pending pro se lawsuits in what he calls the “so-called” Nooksack Tribal Court, as the Council faction and Dodge still refuse to let him or his law firm practice law at Nooksack.
Citing the following proclamations about Dodge and Nooksack from 2017 and 2018, Galanda said his pejorative description of the Nooksack judiciary is justified:
- The National Indian Court Judges Association Board of Directors rebuked Dodge: “while you have occupied the position of Chief Judge at Nooksack, proceedings do not appear to have been conducted in compliance with the federal [Indian Civil Rights Act] or fundamental tenets of due process at law.”
- The Washington State Bar Association commented that the Nooksack “’justice system’” is “probably not worthy of that description.”
- The U.S. Department of the Interior expressed the United States’ continued concern about the lack of “respect for the rule of law” at Nooksack.
- Ninth Circuit Senior Judge Richard Clifton commented that the Council faction and Dodge’s record is one “a tin-pot dictator of a banana republic might be proud of.”
- U.S. District Court John C. Coughenour rejected Dodge’s contention that “‘the cloud over the Tribe’ has been lifted” by Interior’s re-recognition of the Tribe, commenting that the “well documented” allegations against him and his co-conspirators “are highly concerning.”
Galanda explained that his law firm is prepared to “litigate for another seven years if necessary” to protect his clients’ human rights, particularly their Indigenous right to belong.
Nooksack getting violent
All the while the Council faction has increasingly persecuted Nooksack 306 surrogates, including Indigenous women and elders, who have publicly challenged their disenrollment agenda.
Carmen Tageant was illegally recalled and cyber harassed by the Council faction in 2016 after she spoke out against the disenrollment of the 306. Tageant, a 46-year-old mother of seven, alleges that Nooksack Police Chief Mike Ashby physically assaulted her when seeking to file for re-election in January of 2018. According to her sworn court testimony: “Ashby forcefully grabbed both of my arms just above my elbows and violently pushed me back towards the door.”
Days later she filed suit against Ashby in Whatcom County Superior Court, and this year Tageant defeated his federal court effort to cause the United States to defend that lawsuit. This past September, U.S. District Court Judge James C. Robart ruled that Ashby was not acting in the scope of his employment during the incident, and dismissed his request for a federal defense.
Tageant’s account is corroborated by Deborah Alexander, a Nooksack Elder who testified under oath before Judge Robart about a video-recorded incident in December of 2016 in which she alleges that Ashby assaulted her near the Tribal Courthouse. She testified that Ashby violently prevented her from attending court in support of her older sister Gretty Rabang, who Dodge was illegally attempting to evict from her home over the Christmas holiday three years ago.
In Alexander’s words, Ashby “put both of his hands on the left side of my upper body, between my collar bone and breasts, and violently shoved me.” Alexander explained that she is “struck by the similarities between his assault of her” and Tageant.
Judge Robart sent Tageant’s lawsuit back to Superior Court, where civil discovery has since revealed documents showing that other women living near Nooksack have also accused Ashby of “very agitated, hostile and belligerent” and “aggressive behavior” towards them.
Things also turned physical between Nooksack police and Elile Adams, a 33-year-old Lummi mother, and her father and Nooksack Elder, George Adams, in July of 2019. George Adams has been an outspoken critic of the Tribal Council and its disenrollment agenda, since 2014.
The morning after returning from Canoe Journey, Tribal police officers Francisco Sanchez, Daniel Bennett, and Brandon Farstad arrived to the Adamses’ home to arrest Elile Adams pursuant to a warrant issued by Dodge while they were away during the inter-tribal cultural voyage.
The three cops attacked George Adams after he, with Galanda on a recorded speakerphone, asked them under what pretext they were there to arrest his daughter. The cops grabbed him by his arms and threw him against a concrete sidewalk and stairway. Officer Farstad placed him in a chokehold while the other cops handcuffed him, before citing him for obstruction of justice.
Elile Adams, who had never before been arrested, as taken to the Whatcom County Jail where she spent almost eight hours in the jail’s general population. Neither Nooksack nor County police ever presented her with the arrest warrant, which arises from a Tribal Court civil parenting proceeding that Dodge himself initiated against her in March of 2017 as a vendetta against her dad.
At that time, Dodge lacked authority to act as Nooksack's Chief Judge according to the Obama Administration, as well as subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the custody of her daughter as a matter of state law. Two months ago, the Whatcom County Superior Court ruled that it, not Dodge, “retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the custody of” Elile Adams’ child.
Last month, Elile Adams sued Dodge in U.S. District Court for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking her "unconditional freedom" from him and the Tribal Court. Earlier this year she relinquished her and her daughter's Nooksack memberships and enrolled them both with the Lummi Nation, explaining that she was "seeking asylum and protection" from Dodge at Lummi.
The Adamses have also filed a personal injury suit against Dodge for abuse of judicial process and the three Nooksack cops for assault, battery, and false arrest, in Whatcom County Superior Court. Each of those defendants are named in their personal capacities.
The 306 will "stand their ground"
The year 2020 foretells that the Council faction will attempt to eject the 306 from their federally subsidized homes, which many of them own outright. Two months ago, the faction passed a new Housing Policy that requires individuals who own their homes to obtain a “ground lease” from and pay rent to the Tribe. According to the new law, ground leases are only available to “Currently Enrolled Tribal Member” applicants. According to Galanda, the law is targeted towards his clients.
Expecting Nooksack "despots and armed cops to come for” his clients and try taking their homes, Galanda concluded: “With legitimate governments looking away from human rights violations and increasing police violence at Nooksack, my clients are prepared to stand their ground.”