Linda Hart, Nooksack elder who faces disenrollment: "You find out who your friends are."
“You find out who your friends are,” Linda Hart says outside the courthouse.
“I’d come up here one time, and told them I wanted dental work,” Daniel Rapada says. “They wouldn’t even see me.”
“Matter of fact, even at a gathering, sometimes they won’t sit by you,” Lois Gladstone says.
Hart, Rapada and Gladstone are Nooksack elders and among 306 members targeted by tribal officials for disenrollment. The cuts would reduce the 2,000-member tribe by about 15 percent, and would likely be the largest disenrollment ever in Washington state.
Without tribal standing, the members stand to lose fishing rights plus access to health care and housing programs, among other benefits. Similar disenrollment battles have increased across Indian Country in recent years.
Daniel Rapada, a Nooksack elder: “I’d come up here one time, and told them I wanted dental work. They wouldn’t even see me.”
In February, the Nooksack Tribal Council sent letters to the 306 members, citing documentation errors with their proof of ancestry.
"I was really mad," Rapada said. "I mean, I was ready to come here and chew on somebody."
Most of the 306, as they call themselves, enrolled in the tribe in the 1980s, about a decade after the tribe gained federal status. Their Nooksack ancestor, upon whom they based their enrollment, is a woman named Annie George. However, in the disenrollment letters, the tribe says George is missing from a 1942 census that is used to verify lineage.