Indigenous Affairs

State Supreme Court weighs in on Nooksack evictions

Injunction granted; next hearing set for June 15
June 9, 2022 at 1:27 p.m.
Updated June 9, 2022 at 3:45 p.m.
The Nooksack Indian Tribe Community Building near Everson.
The Nooksack Indian Tribe Community Building near Everson. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Staff Reporter

The Washington State Supreme Court has granted a preliminary injunction to seven households facing eviction on Nooksack Tribal Land.

With the injunction in place, the Nooksack Indian Tribe will not be able to proceed with evictions until the court decides to hear the case.

The Tribe said the injunction “paused the evictions for a short time only to decide whether or not to hear the case.” 

The court's decision may come as early as next week, though it may come later in the summer. The case will next be argued before a Supreme Court commissioner on June 15. 

The seven households involved in the suit are home to members of a group of more than 300 individuals who were formally removed from the Nooksack Indian Tribe following a bitter disenrollment battle, and have been facing the threat of eviction for months. 

Following disenrollment, 63 members of the 306 remained living in their homes on tribal lands, many of which are part of the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The program, which allows developers to trade tax credits for the construction of low-income housing projects, has developed almost 50,000 affordable housing projects across the country. 

Occupants filed the lawsuit against the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC), the organization responsible for the state’s LIHTC program, in March.

Gabe Galanda, an Indigenous rights lawyer and representative of the seven households, said he is hopeful the injunction will allow the residents to stay in their homes this summer. 

“If the Raymond James limited partnerships--which hold a 99.99% ownership interest in the LIHTC homes--and their agent the Nooksack Indian Housing Authority each honor the injunction, the seven households should safely remain in their homes this summer,” Michelle Roberts, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement. 

The Nooksack Indian Tribe initially filed paperwork to evict the seven households in December, citing a need for additional housing for enrolled tribal members, with more than 60 elders and unhoused constituents on a waiting list for low-income housing. 

“The Nooksack Indian Tribe owns the land and the housing, manages the properties, and is the landlord on the leases with all the tenants involved in the case,” the Tribe said in a statement. “In an effort to avoid dealing with the Tribe, the tenants have sued the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and the limited partnerships, which are only financing vehicles, neither of which are involved in owning or managing the rental properties that the Tribe offers to tribal members.”

“We are confident that once the Court examines the true facts, rather than unfounded claims for the disenrolled tenants, that it will dismiss the case,” they said. 

This story was updated to include Michelle Roberts, who wrote the statement released by her attorney, Gabe Galanda. This story was updated on June 9, 2022, at 3:45 p.m. 

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