Auntie Ollie Oshiro is 86, has dementia, and cannot see well, hear well or walk well. This month, she represented herself during an eviction hearing.
Oshiro is one of 63 members of the Nooksack 306 facing eviction from their homes on Nooksack lands, and she has been fighting her eviction for months. Eviction hearings against her and several other elders, including Mike Rabang and Norma and Eugene Aldrege, resumed this month as the Tribe elected new councilmembers and a chairwoman.
“There should be no scenario in which [Oshio] could be evicted from her home of 24 years — a home she should own outright,” her lawyer, Indigenous rights attorney Gabe Galanda, Tweeted on March 17.
Rabang, 79, also suffers from dementia and had to represent himself.
Galanda has been barred from practicing in the Tribal court and received a warning for “criminal trespass” while trying to represent members of the 306 two weeks ago.
Galanda has called the evictions “cruelty,” not examples of “self-determination” and “sovereignty,” as the Tribe says.
Members of the 306 hoped the new chairperson, RoseMary LaClair, may represent a shift in mindset about the 306, though members of the Tribe say the young progressive doesn’t necessarily represent a “changing of the seas.”
LaClair said protecting the Tribe’s sovereignty is one of her highest priorities, and the evictions are necessary to protect the interests of the Tribe.
“We have over 60 Nooksack households that are on the waiting list for housing and some of those households have Nooksack elders and they have young families with young children, so we need to make sure that we can accommodate our Tribal members,” she told Cascadia Daily last week.
“It's quite the tough topic, but we need to definitely protect what is meant for Nooksack tribal members and follow our constitution, our bylaws and ordinances that have been set forth for us from our previous councils and leaders.”
On Tuesday, the Tribe announced plans to begin building mini homes in the Rutsatz neighborhood on May 1 to help address the housing shortage. Homes will be available to those currently on the waitlist.
Many of those facing eviction right now live in Rutsatz, a quiet community on Tribe lands.