Feds order shutdown of tribal casino in Washington state

In another blow to the Nooksack tribe, a federal agency ordered the tribe to shut down its casino — immediately. It is the latest rebuke to the tribe by the feds, who consider the tribal council illegitimate amid a long-running disenrollment fight.

Already slammed by an assistant U.S. attorney who called its council “unelected, unrecognized and illegitimate,” the Nooksack tribe is facing the loss of its last remaining casino.

The National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency, ordered the tribeThursday to close its Northwood Casino in Lynden — immediately.

Under the federal law governing Indian gaming, tribal casinos “must be conducted by federally recognized leadership,” said the 18-page order.

The tribe, embroiled in a long-running disenrollment fight, has no such leadership. As the order noted, the top federal official for Indian affairs wrote a series of letters to the tribe last year saying the feds would refuse to recognize any actions of the tribal council because four members with expired terms continued to serve. As such, the tribe did not have the necessary quorum.

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Tribal Chairman Bob Kelly could not be reached for comment about the gaming commission’s order.

The council’s cancellation of elections last year stemmed from its attempt to kick out roughly 300 people whose lineage it questioned.

There were elections this year, but the 300, disenrolled by that time, were not allowed to participate, invalidating the vote to the feds.

A lot else has happened. Federal and state agencies defunded the tribe, causing it to lose millions of dollars. The tribe sued, prompting the assistant U.S. attorney’s stinging rebuke.

And this week, the Indian Health Service said it was taking over providing health care to the tribe. The agency has contracted with Sea Mar Community Health Centers for the purpose, it explained in a letter to members….

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