Indigenous Affairs

Nooksack chairman loses tribal election

The election was decided by 23 votes
March 20, 2022 at 3:55 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2022 at 10:38 a.m.

Staff Reporter

Power is once again changing hands at the Nooksack Tribal Council following the Tribe's biannual elections.

Tribal chairman Roswell Cline Sr., originally elected to serve in 2018, was voted out of his position yesterday, according to preliminary election results. 

His opponent, RoseMary LaClair, received just shy of 53% of the vote, per the Tribe's unofficial election results posted Saturday night.

LaClair hopes to lead the community in a "progressive" direction, she wrote in her candidate statement

"I hold my Tribal community near and dear to my heart because it has proven to me that community involvement is necessary to push forth the teachings from previous generations to future generations," LaClair wrote. "When you vote for me, you are voting for a chairman that cares for the people."

This is the second chair turnover in as many elections, hosted every two years. 

This year, four positions were up for election: chairman, secretary, council seat A and council seat B. 

Incumbent Frank Leyva was reelected (with 77% of the votes) as the tribe's secretary in a race against Lawrence Lee Bailey. 

Roman Gabriel Swanaset-Simmonds won the race for council seat A with 58% of the vote against Jesse F. Madera, Jr.

Agripina "Lona" Johnson lost her Council seat to Victoria Joe, who learned to "serve with a good heart and goodness in our heart," from her ancestors. Joe won the seat with 54.6% of the vote.

Supporters of the Nooksack 306, a group of over 300 individuals who were formally disenrolled from the Nooksack Tribe several years ago, hope these elections represent a shift in mindset. Though the 306 have ancestral ties to the community, the tribe does not recognize them as formal members of the community and are not allowed to vote. 

The tribe did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Cline was elected to serve as the Nooksack Tribe's chairperson in 2020. He was elected in 2018. The story was updated to reflect this change on March 22 at 10:38 a.m. The Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.

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