DEMING - On the tails of the one-year anniversary of a highly-contested Nooksack tribal council action that sought to strip more than 300 people of tribal membership, voters on both sides of the issue came out to show their support for candidates for four council positions in the Feb. 15 primary election.
Candidates vied for the positions of chairman and secretary, as well as two general positions on the eight-member governing council.
Among other issues, the candidates for each position stand divided over a contested effort to strip 306 Nooksacks of their tribal membership. The three incumbents and Roy Bailey, who was recently appointed to the council, generally support the process, while the other four candidates advancing to the general election are members of a coalition that hopes to stop the disenrollment, chairman candidate George Adams said.
"We don't want a name," Adams said of the coalition, "other than we're tribal members trying to do the right thing. I think the coalition stands for righting the wrongs and going forward with healing."
Only three votes separated current Chairman Bob Kelly from challenger Adams.
Kelly is among those who support the disenrollment process. Adams is not one of the 306 facing disenrollment, but has rallied with the group against the effort, calling himself "307."
"We want to be unified as a people," Adams said.
Kelly declined to comment on the election.
The disenrollment process is currently on hold while the Nooksack Court of Appeals reviews legal issues raised by the group's lawyer.
Secretary candidate Bailey, enrollment officer for the 2,000-member tribe, trailed opponent Nadene Rapada by 66 votes.
A month before the primary election, council members Michelle Roberts and Rudy St. Germain were ousted from the council under a provision that allows the removal of council members who miss more than three meetings in a row without an excuse, according to an email message Chairman Kelly sent The Bellingham Herald at the time. The council then named Bailey to replace St. Germain as secretary and David Williams to replace Roberts.
Roberts and St. Germain are among the 306 Nooksacks facing disenrollment.
The two council members running for reelection, Robert Solomon (Position A) and Agripina Johnson (Position B) trailed their top vote-getting opponents, Felisisimo Johnny and Carmen Tageant.
Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at Samantha.Wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com.
The results below were compiled from the Nooksack Indian Tribe's Facebook page and reports from tribal members. The two candidates who received the most votes in each race will move on to the general runoff election March 15.
Robert Kelly: 259 votes, George Adams: 256 votes, Hermeniheldo Almojera: 42 votes
Nadene Rapada: 285 votes, Roy Bailey: 219 votes, Lily Roberts: 55 votes
Felisisimo Johnny: 225 votes, Robert Solomon: 159 votes, Sandra Joseph: 76 votes, Clayton Roberts: 82 votes
Carmen Tageant: 256 votes, Agripina Johnson: 249 votes, Leon Cline: 48 votes