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Nooksack Tribe sues feds over withholding of $13.7 million

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SEATTLE — The Nooksack Tribe of northwestern Washington state is suing the federal government, saying it’s wrongfully withholding nearly $14 million in a flap over the tribe’s efforts to kick out about 300 of its members.

Late last year the tribe’s chairman announced that the 289 booted from the tribe were “non-Indians who had erroneously been enrolled in the Tribe.”

But the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs announced that it wouldn’t recognize any actions by the tribal council because the terms of four members had expired and no election was held to replace them.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, the tribe argued that the government’s decision interferes with its right to govern itself.

It says that due to the bureau’s decision, it has been denied grants for medical services, housing and salmon habitat restoration.