DEMING - Hundreds of people threatened with removal from the Nooksack Indian Tribe appear to be running out of options and time.
The tribal council will start meeting over the phone this week with 306 people whose membership has been called into question, to give them a chance to prove their Nooksack ancestry.
A representative of the families who have lived for months under the threat of disenrollment said they were effectively given no notice of the meetings and their rights under tribal law were violated.
"This whole process has just been pushed through, and the current council chairman, Bob Kelly, and his faction have disregarded the (tribal) constitution," said Moreno Peralta, a spokesman for the group facing disenrollment. "They're just making it up as they go."
Attorneys Thomas Schlosser and Grett Hurley, who represent Kelly and the council members who support him, did not respond to media requests for comment.
Two council members, Rudy St. Germain and Michelle Roberts, are among those slated for removal from the tribe.
All of the people facing loss of tribal membership are descended from the late Annie George. They insist she was a Nooksack, but her name does not appear on a 1942 census the tribe uses to confirm membership. Her descendants say that was a mistake that should not be used to strip them of their tribal identity and the valuable housing, medical and fishing rights benefits that go with it. They have probate records and anthropologists' opinions to support their claims, they say.
Kelly's supporters describe the 306 as members of a Canadian tribe who were wrongfully enrolled as Nooksacks in the mid-1980s. They argue the expulsion simply corrects that mistake.
The council decided on Thursday, Aug. 8, to hold "involuntary disenrollment meetings" starting Friday, Aug. 16. Notices didn't come to affected members until Monday, Aug. 12, according to a news release from the members' attorney, Gabriel Galanda of Seattle.
The council is requiring the members to provide written evidence supporting their ancestral claims five days in advance.
Members targeted for disenrollment filed two briefs in tribal court on Tuesday, Aug. 13, one seeking an emergency temporary restraining order against the disenrollment meetings. The other asked the judge to stop the hearings altogether, claiming they violate the tribe's laws and constitution.
In addition to claiming the members had no time to submit evidence, the motion for the restraining order said members were being denied attorneys for the meetings and would have no more than 10 minutes to argue their cases.
The members asked the tribal judge to schedule a hearing on the restraining order by Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Peralta was unsure whether the two court actions would succeed, calling them "a shot in the dark." He wouldn't say what the group's next step would be, except to say "plans C and D" were ready if the tribal court rejected the latest filings.
Since the council made its first move to disenroll the 306 members in February, appeals to the tribal court, the U.S. District Court and the Bureau of Indian Affairs all have been rejected.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2298.