Northwest Coast Indians / Pacific Northwest Coast Indians
The term Northwest Coast Tribes or North West Coast is used in anthropology, primarily in the American context, is used to refer to the groups of Indigenous people residing along the West coast of Canada and the United States. 

The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast are composed of many nations and tribal affiliations, each with distinctive cultural and political identities, but they share certain beliefs, traditions and practices, such as the centrality of salmon as a resource and spiritual symbol.

Location: Oregon | Washington | Alaska | Northern California | British Columbia

There are wide variations of climate and topography along the Pacific Ocean, including Tundra, Mountains and Temporate Rain Forests. The area generally has cool and wet summers and mild winters.

Ceremonial Masks:
The people of the Northwest Coast, particularly those in the Northern and Central portions of this culture area, are well known for their ceremonial masks.

Masks are made from wood, primarily cedar and occasionally maple, which is then painted with three primary colors: black or blue, red, and white.

These masks are both art objects and objects with spiritual significance.

Masks represent the animals and creatures of the four dimensions of the cosmos: the Sky World, the Mortal World, the Undersea World, and the Spirit World. One of the common themes in the mythology of the Northwest Coast is one in which ancestors come down from the sky and then remove their animal or bird costumes.

When used in ceremonies, the masks take on the life and spirit of the spirits which they represent. Traditionally, masks were guarded and hidden away, and not shown until they appeared in the ceremonial dance.

Northwest Coast Art

The Northwest Coast is a region in which an entrenched and highly valued artistic tradition flourished. Northwest Coast art-carving and painting-has a very characteristic style.

Most commonly, art is used for portraying the family crest and heraldic figures.Another media used by Northwest Coast artists is argillite. Argillite is a soft stone which is found in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Cooking and Potlatches

One of the unique items among Northwest Coast Indians are kerfed wooden boxes in which the sides of the box are made by scoring and then bending a single board to form the sides of the box.

The single side seam is then carefully fitted and sewn together with spruce root.

The bottom of the box is also carefully fitted and sewn to the sides.

These boxes are waterproof and some are used for cooking. The watertight boxes can be filled with water and when hot stones are dropped into the box the water can be brought to a boil.

Many social events and ceremonies, such as a funeral or seasonal celebration, include a potlatch.

During the several days of the potlatch, the hosts provide the guests with two large meals per day. These were traditionally served from huge potlatch bowls, carved in the shape of a animal or man, that may be up to 12 feet long.

The potlatch is an expression of social stratification and so the lower ranking members of the society would be fed from the bowls at the knees and the highest ranking members would be fed from the head.

Potlatches also include many give-aways for various reasons.

The hosting family may save and gather food and giveaway items for a year or more before sponsoring a potlatch.

This is a way of redistributing wealth from the more prosperous tribal members to the more needy, or showing respect for a person who has passed.

Funeral potlatches are usually held about a year after the death of the deceased person, to give away his possessions.

Clothing of the Pacific Northwest Coast Indians

The Northwest Coast peoples have a wide variety of garments which are worn during ceremonies and for special occasions. Sometimes the clothes are decorated with crest designs that show the wearer’s clan.

One of the best examples of Northwest Coast weaving can be seen in the Chilkat Dancing Blankets or Robes.

These blankets combine the twining of mountain goat wool and cedar bark with the images of mythological creatures.

According to some experts, The pattern of the Chilcat blanket came from the Tsimshian and was adopted by the Tlingit, the Chilcat people specializing in its production, owning to the ease with which mountain goat’s wool could be procured in their district.

Traditionally, it would take a year or more to make a Chilkat Blanket. The blankets are woven by the women, but the designs are painted by male artists on special pattern boards.

Another kind of ceremonial blanket is the Button Blanket. Button blankets were developed during the 19th century. Most are made of dark blue wool with a red pattern.The buttons are sewn individually to create the desired pattern.

Northwest Coast Tribes / Pacific Coast Tribes

  • Alsea, Oregon
  • Bella Coola – See Heiltsuk
  • Nuxalk – See Heiltsuk
  • Tsleil-Waututh First Nation
  • Chehalis, (Upper and Lower), Washington
  • Chehalis, (BC), Fraser Valley
  • Chemakum, Washington (extinct)
  • Chetco – see Tolowa
  • Chilliwak, BC
  • Chinook (Dialects: Lower Chinook, Upper Chinook, Clackamas, Wasco)
  • Clallam – see Klallam
  • Clatsop
  • Comox, Vancouver Island/BC Georgia Strait
  • Coos Hanis Oregon
  • Lower Coquille (Miluk) Oregon
  • Upper Coquille
  • Cowichan, Southern Vancouver Island/Georgia Strait
    • Quwutsun
    • Somena
    • Quamichan
  • Lower Cowlitz, Washington
  • Duwamish, Washington
  • Eyak, Alaska
  • Galice
  • Gitxsan, British Columbia
  • Haida, (Dialects: Kaigani, Skidegate, Masset) BC & Alaska
  • Haisla, BC North/Central Coast
    • Haihai
    • Kimsquit
    • Kitimaat
  • Heiltsuk (Bella Coola, Nuxalk), BC Central Coast
  • Hoh, Washington
  • Kalapuya (Calapooia, Calapuya, Tfalatim, Yamel, Yaquina, Yoncalla), Oregon
    • Central Kalapuya, Oregon
      • Ahantchuyuk
      • Mary’s River
      • Lakmiut
      • Mohawk, Oregon
      • Santiam
    • North Kalapuya, Oregon 
      • Tfalati (Atfalati)
      • Tualatin
      • Yamhill (Yamel)
    • South Kalapuya (Yonkalla, Yoncalla), Oregon
  • Klallam (Clallam, Dialects: Klallam (Lower Elwha), S’Klallam (Jamestown), S’Klallam (Port Gamble))
  • Klickitat
  • Kwalhioqua
  • Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl)
    • Koskimo
    • ‘Namgis
    • Laich-kwil-tach (Euclataws or Yuculta)
  • Kwalhioqua
  • Lummi, Washington
  • Makah, Washington
  • Muckleshoot, Washington
    • Musqueam, BC Lower Mainland (Vancouver)
    • Nisga’a, (Tsetsaut), British Columbia
    • Nisqually, Washington
    • Nooksack, Washington
    • Nuu-chah-nulth, West Coast of Vancouver Island
    • Nuxalk (Bella Coola), – BC Central Coast 
    • Pentlatch, Vancouver Island/Georgia Strait (extinct)
    • Puyallup, Washington
    • Quileute, Washington
    • Quinault, Washington
    • Rivers Inlet – see Wuikinuxv
    • Rogue River Upper Illinois or Chasta Costa), Oregon, California
    • Saanich, Southern Vancouver Island/Georgia Strait
    • Sauk-Suiattle, Washington
    • Sechelt, BC Sunshine Coast/Georgia Strait (Shishalh)
    • Shoalwater Bay Tribe, Washington
    • Siletz, Oregon
    • Siuslaw, Oregon
    • Skagit, Washington
    • Skokomish, Washington
    • Sliammon, BC Sunshine Coast/Georgia Strait (Mainland Comox)
    • Snohomish, Washington
    • Snoqualmie, Washington
    • Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo), Vancouver Island
    • Songhees (Songish), Southern Vancouver Island/Strait of Juan de Fuca
    • Sooke, Southern Vancouver Island/Strait of Juan de Fuca
    • Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish), British Columbia
    • Squaxin Island, Washington
    • Spokane, Washington
    • Stillaguamish, Washington
    • Sto:lo, BC Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley
      • Kwantlen
      • Katzie
    • Suquamish, Washington
    • Swinomish (Samish), Washington
    • Tait
    • Takelma, Oregon
    • Talio
    • Tillamook (Nehalem), Oregon
    • Tlatlasikoala
    • Tlingit, Alaska
    • Tolowa-Tututni, Northern California
    • Tongass Indians
    • Tsimshian, (Dialects: Hartley Bay, Prince Rupert, Gitando, Kitkatla), Alaska
    • Tsleil-waututh (Burrard), British Columbia
    • Tulalip, Washington
    • Twana, Washington
    • Tzouk-e (Sooke), Vancouver Island
    • Lower Umpqua, Oregon
    • Upper Umpqua, Oregon
    • Upper Skagit, Washington
    • Wuikinuxv (Owekeeno, Rivers Inlet), BC Central Coast
  • Nanaimo  (contraction of Snanaímux),  Vancouver Island and on Nanaimo Lake, British Columbia

Calapooia – see Kalapuya
Calapuya – see Kalapuya
Chasta (Shasta) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Chasta Costa – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Chasta Costa – see Rogue River
Chehalis (Upper and Lower), Washington – See Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Chehalis, (BC), Fraser Valley

Chinook – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Chinook (Thomas Band Chinook, Williams Band Chinook, Wal-la-lah band of Tumwaters, Johns Band Chinook, Clackamas Chinook (Oregon City)) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Chemakum, Washington (extinct)
Chetco – (Tolowa) – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Clallam – see Klallam
Clatskanie (Tlatskanie)
Clatsop – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Coos (Hanis) – See Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians of Oregon
Coos (Miluk) – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon and  Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians of Oregon

Lower Coquille (Miluk) – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Upper Coquille – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon

French Canadian (Iroquois) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Lower Cowlitz Washington


Galice – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon


Kalapuya (Calapooia, Calapuya)- See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon



Yamhill (Yamel) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Tualatin – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Tfalati (Atfalati) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon

Central Kalapuya

Santiam – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Mary’s River – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Ahantchuyuk – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Lower McKenzie (Mohawk people), Oregon

South Kalapuya, (Yonkalla, Yoncalla) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon



Klallam (Clallam, Dialects: Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam) – Also See Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Klickitat – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon and Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Kwakiutl (Kwakwala or Kwakwa’kwa’kw)


Laich-kwil-tach (Euclataws or Yuculta)

Lakmiut – see Kalapuya
Lower McKenzie – see Kalapuya
Lower Umpqua – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Lower Umpqua – See Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians of Oregon
Lummi Washington

Makah Washington
Mary’s River – see Kalapuya
Molala – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon and Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Muckleshoot – Also See Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Musqueam, BC Lower Mainland (Vancouver)


Niskwalli – See Nisqually
Nisqually – Also See Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
Nooksack Indian Tribe of Washington

Oowekeno – see Wuikinuxv 

Oowekyala – See Heiltsuk

Quinault – Also See Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation

Rivers Inlet – see Wuikinuxv
Rogue River or Upper Illinois Oregon, California – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon

Samish – See Swinomish
Santiam – see Kalapuya
Shasta – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Siletz Oregon – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Siuslaw – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Siuslaw – See Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians of Oregon

Songhees (Songish), Southern Vancouver Island/Strait of Juan de Fuca
South Kalapuya – see Kalapuya

Takelma – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Tfalati – see Kalapuya
Tillamook (Nehalem), Oregon – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Tillamook (Salmon River, Nehalem, Nestucka) – See Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of OregonTualatin – see Kalapuya
Tututni – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon

Lower Umpqua – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon
Upper Umpqua – See Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon

Pacific Northwest and Plateau Indian Wars


Arctic | California | Northeast | Great Basin | Great Plains
NW CoastPlateauSoutheastSouthwestSub Arctic



Article Index:

Alaska Northwest Coast Cultures

The Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian share a common and similar Northwest Coast Culture with important differences in language and clan system.


Anthropologists use the term “Northwest Coast Culture” to define the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, as well as that of other peoples indigenous to the Pacific coast, extending as far as northern Oregon.

The Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian have a complex social system consisting of moieties, phratries and clans. Eyak, Tlingit and Haida divide themselves into moieties, while the Tsimshian divide into phratries. The region from the Copper River Delta to the Southeast Panhandle is a temperate rainforest with precipitation ranging from 112 inches per year to almost 200 inches per year. Here the people depended upon the ocean and rivers for their food and travel.

Although these four groups are neighbors, their spoken languages are not mutually intelligible.

Eyak is a single language with only one living speaker .

The Tlingit language has four main dialects: Northern, Southern, Inland and Gulf Coast with variations in accent from each village.

The Haida people speak an isolate (unrelated to other) language, Haida, with three dialects: Skidegate and Masset in British Columbia, Canada and the Kaigani dialect of Alaska.

The Tsimshian people speak another isolate language, Sm’algyax, which has four main dialects: Coast Tsimshian, Southern Tsimshian, Nisga’a, and Gitksan.

Eyak occupied the lands in the southeastern corner of Southcentral Alaska. Their territory runs along the Gulf of Alaska from the Copper River Delta to Icy Bay. Oral tradition tells us that the Eyak moved down from the interior of Alaska via the Copper River or over the Bering Glacier. Until the 18th century, the Eyak were more closely associated with their Athabascan neighbors to the north than the North Coast Cultures.

Traditional Tlingit territory in Alaska includes the Southeast panhandle between Icy Bay in the north to the Dixon Entrance in the south. Tlingit people have also occupied the area to the east inside the Canadian border. This group is known as the “Inland Tlingit”. The Tlingits have occupied this territory, for a very long time. The western scientific date is of 10,000 years, while the Native version is “since time immemorial.”

The original homeland of the Haida people is the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, Canada. Prior to contact with Europeans, a group migrated north to the Prince of Wales Island area within Alaska. This group is known as the “Kaigani” or Alaska Haidas. Today, the Kaigani Haida live mainly in two villages, Kasaan and the consolidated village of Hydaburg.

The original homeland of the Tsimshian is between the Nass and Skeena Rivers in British Columbia, Canada, though at contact in Southeast Alaska’s Portland Canal area, there were villages at Hyder and Halibut Bay. Presently in Alaska, the Tsimshian live mainly on Annette Island, in (New) Metlakatla, Alaska in addition to settlements in Canada.

House Types and Settlements

Before and during early contact with the non-aboriginal population, the people built their homes from red cedar, spruce, and hemlock timber and planks. The houses, roofed with heavy cedar bark or spruce shingles, ranged in size from 35’-40’ x 50’-100’, with some Haida houses being 100’ x 75’. All houses had a central fire pit with a centrally located smoke hole. A plank shield frames the smoke hole in the roof. Generally, each house could hold 20-50 individuals with a village size between 300-500 people.

The people had winter villages along the banks of streams or along saltwater beaches for easy access to fish-producing streams. The location of winter villages gave protection from storms and enemies, drinking water and a place to land canoes. Houses always faced the water with the backs to the mountains or muskeg/swamps. Most villages had a single row of houses with the front of the house facing the water, but some had two or more rows of houses.

Each local group of Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian had at least one permanent winter village with various seasonal camps close to food resources. The houses held 20-50 people, usually of one main clan. In each Eyak village, there were two potlatch houses, outside of which was a post topped with an Eagle or Raven. The dwelling houses were unmarked. The southern Tlingit had tall totem poles in the front of their houses. The Northern Tlingit houses had fewer and shorter frontal totem poles.

Tools and Technology

Southeast Alaska’s environment is a temperate rain forest. This environment produces many tall and massive trees. Wood was the most important commodity for the people. Houses, totem poles, daily utensils, storage and cooking boxes, transportation, ceremonial objects, labrets (worn by high status women), clothes all were made of wood and wood products. The tools to make the wood into usable items were adzes, mauls, wedges, digging sticks and after contact, iron.

To cut the wood people used chipped rocks, bones, beaver teeth, and shells. For light, the Eyak used a clamshell with seal oil or pitch, and a lump of fat for a wick in the sleeping room. Dried ooligan were used as candles. Also, hollowed sandstone with cotton grass fashioned into wicks.

Various means were used to harvest the seasonal salmon runs. Fish weirs (fences) and traps were placed in streams. Holding ponds were built in the inter-tidal region. Dip nets, hooks, harpoons and spears were also used to harvest salmon during the season. A specialized hook, shaped in a ‘V’ or ‘U’ form allowed the people to catch specific sized halibut.

Various baskets were used for cooking, storage, and for holding clams, berries, seaweed and water. The Tsimshian used baskets in the process of making ooligan (a special of smelt) oil. Basket weaving techniques were also used for mats, aprons, and hats. Mats woven of cedar bark were used as room dividers and floor mats, as well as to wrap the dead prior to burial or cremation. The inner cedar bark was pounded to make baby cradle padding, as well as clothing such as capes, skirts, shorts and blankets (shawls).

The Nass River Tsimshian are credited with originating the Chilkat weaving technique, which spread throughout the region.

Social Organization

No central government existed. Each village and each clan house resolved its differences through traditional customs and practices; no organized gatherings for discussions of national policy making took place. Decisions were made at the clan, village or house level, affecting clan members of an individual village or house. The people had a highly stratified society, consisting of high-ranking individuals/families, commoners and slaves. Unlike present day marriages, unions were arranged by family members. Slaves were usually captives from war raids on other villages.

All four groups had an exogamous (meaning they married outside of their own group), matrilineal clan system, which means that the children trace their lineage and names from their mother (not their father as in the European system). This means the children inherit all rights through the mother, including the use of the clan fishing, hunting and gathering land, the right to use specific clan crests as designs on totem poles, houses, clothing, and ceremonial regalia.

The Eyak were organized into two moieties, meaning their clan system is divided into two reciprocating halves or “one of two equal parts”. Their moieties, Raven and the Eagle, equated with the Tlingit Raven and Eagle/Wolf and with the Ahtna Crow and Sea Gull moieties. The names and stories of the clans in these moieties show relationships with the Tlingit and Ahtna.

In the Tlingit clan system, one moiety was known as Raven or Crow, the other moiety as Eagle or Wolf depending upon the time period. Each moiety contained many clans.

The Haida have two moieties, Eagle and Raven, and also have many clans under each moiety. The clans that fall under the Haida Eagle would fall under the Tlingit Raven. One example: Tlingit Raven/Frog; Haida Eagle/Frog. The Tsimshian had phratries (four groups instead of two groups). There are four crests: Killerwhale (Blackfish), Wolf, Raven and Eagle. However Fireweed, Wolf, Raven and Eagle are the Gitksan’s phratry names. The Tsimshian Killerwhale and Wolf are one side and their opposite side are the Eagle and Raven. However, the Gitksan have Fireweed and Wolf as their opposites to Eagle and Raven.


All four groups used animal fur, mountain goat wool, tanned skins and cedar bark for clothing. Hats made of spruce roots and cedar bark kept the rain off the head. After western trading, wool and cotton materials were common.


The main means of travel was by canoes. The people traveled regularly for seasonal activities such as subsistence and trading. The Haida canoes, made from a single cedar log up to 60 feet in length, were the most highly prized commodity.

Traditional and Contemporary Subsistence Patterns

Contemporary subsistence activities and traditional ceremonies are still essential and important to the Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people’s cultural identity.

The water supplied their main food. One of the most important fish is salmon. There are five species: King (chinook), silver (coho), red (sockeye), chum (dog salmon), pink (humpback or humpy). Steelhead, herring, herring eggs, and ooligans (eulachon) were also caught and eaten.

Southeast waters produce an abundance of foods including a variety of sea mammals and deepwater fish. Some sea plants include seaweed (black, red), beach asparagus, and goose tongue. Some food resources are from plants (berries and shoots), and others from come from land mammals (moose, mountain goat, and deer).

Traditionally, clans owned the salmon streams, halibut banks, berry patches, land for hunting, intertidal regions, and egg harvesting areas. As long as the area was used by the clan, they owned the area. The food was seasonal and therefore had to be preserved for the winter months and for early spring. The food was preserved by smoking in smokehouses or was dried, either by wind or sun. These subsistence patterns are still a crucial part of Southeast Alaska Native people’s cultural identity.


The Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian are known for a ceremony called the “potlatch” and feasts. Potlatches are formal ceremonies. Feasts, a less formal but similar event, are more common with the Haida, in which debt was paid to the opposite clan.


High-ranking Eyak, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian clans and/or individuals were expected to give potlatches. However, a potlatch could be given by a commoner who could raise his position by doing so. Except in the Haida tradition, the host would not raise his personal status, but rather the status of his children. Potlatches were held for the following occasions: a funeral or memorial potlatch, whereby the dead are honored; the witness and validation of the payment of a debt, or naming an individual; the completion of a new house; the completion and naming of clan regalia; a wedding; the naming of a child; the erection of a totem pole; or to rid the host of a shame. Potlatches might last days and would include feasting, speeches, singing and dancing. Guests witness and validate the events and are paid with gifts during the ceremony. In potlatches, there would be a feast, however, a feast does not constitute a potlatch.


Regalia worn at potlatches were the Chilkat and Raven’s Tail woven robes, painted tanned leather clothing, tunics, leggings, moccasins, ground squirrel robes, red cedar ropes, masks, rattles, and frontlets. Other items used at potlatches inducle drums, rattles, whistles, paddles, and staffs. Only clan regalia named and validated at a potlatch could be used for formal gatherings.

The Chilkat robes were made of mountain goat wool and cedar warps. The Chilkat weaving style is the only weaving that can create perfect circles. The Raven’s tail robe is made of mountain goat wool. Some of the headpieces had frontlets that would also have sea lion whiskers and ermine. After contact, robes were made of blankets, usually those obtained from the Hudson Bay trading company, adorned with glass beads and mother-of-pearl shells, along with dentalium and abalone shells.

Interior Secretary approves Nooksack tribal disenrollment process

The Department of the Interior has potentially cleared the way for the Nooksack Indian Tribe to strip 306 people of their tribal membership over the telephone. In the most recent step of a process that the tribal council started two years ago, the Secretary of the Interior has ruled that a September 2014 tribal ordinance detailing a disenrollment process is legal under the tribe’s constitution.


The ordinance in question was set up by Chairman Bob Kelly and his supporters on the tribal council. It spells out a process that requires each of the affected members to compile legal documentation of their lineage and schedule a time to have a teleconference with the council.

Each member will be given 10 minutes to plead their case.

Members of three affected families, who call themselves the “Nooksack 306,” have appealed the Interior Secretary’s decision.

Federal law dictates that the decision is of no legal effect until the appeal has been decided through a federal administrative process, according to appeal notice papers filed by Gabe Galanda, the group’s lawyer.

Galanda said he believes that under two existing Nooksack Tribal Court injunction orders, any disenrollment of tribal members must be put on hold pending that federal appeal.

Wording in the tribal constitution that was approved by a vote of tribal members in June 2013 limits membership to descendants of those who got original allotments of tribal land and those whose names appear on a 1942 tribal census. The tribe has approximately 2,000 members.

All of the people facing loss of tribal membership are descended from the late Annie George, whose name does not appear on the 1942 census. Her descendants say that was a mistake that should not be used to strip them of their tribal identity and the valuable housing, medical and fishing rights benefits that go with it. They say they have probate records and anthropologists’ opinions to support their claims.

Kelly’s supporters describe the 306 as members of a Canadian tribe who were wrongfully enrolled as Nooksacks in the mid-1980s. They argue expulsion simply corrects that mistake.

Kelly did not respond to a media request for comment Friday, Feb. 6.

The council attempted to start expelling members with a similar process in 2013, but the Nooksack Tribal Court issued an injunction as that process didn’t allow members to have legal representation during their phone call, would have allowed the council to hold a hearing less than 21 days after sending out notices, and more importantly was not sent to the Secretary of the Interior for approval when it was first put in place.

At that time, members were given notices with directions for the phone-in process that advised they would lose their meeting if they failed to call on time, if their call was dropped, or if they hung up while waiting on the line for between 10 minutes and 2 hours, “as other meetings are scheduled for the same day and time.”

Following the Interior Secretary’s recent approval of the process, which was amended in September to address the concerns laid out in the tribal court injunction, members have again started receiving notices.

One of the affected members, Michelle Roberts, said she knows a handful of elders received notices dated Jan. 30. The notices instruct members to dial a California area code number at a set time on Wednesday, March 4, to participate in an “involuntary disenrollment meeting.”

“A lot of them don’t even understand the whole process,” Roberts said. “The way they want the paperwork to be submitted is as a legal document. Most of (the elders) don’t even have computers.”

Any member up for disenrollment has to submit evidence supporting their claim to membership no later than five days before their scheduled meeting, and it will only be admissible if submitted by a specific process laid out in the ordinance.

“Just imagine: You’re in your 80s … they won’t take handwritten paperwork, it must be typed,” Galanda said. “The documentation needs a cover sheet and exhibit list, and in the lower right corner of each and every exhibit there needs to be a label that includes your name, enrollment number, exhibit number and total number of pages. I can barely do that with the assistance of a paralegal. Imagine trying to do that as someone without a legal background.”

In a news release, Nooksack 306 spokesman Ron Miguel said the process is a “farce.”

“We are people of oral tradition,” Miguel said in the release. “We at least deserve the courtesy of speaking our piece to our accusers face to face.”

Roberts, who was ousted from the tribal council last January, said people in the community are afraid to talk to the 306, as an estimated 50 family members and supporters have lost their jobs or been reprimanded.

“It’s very wearing,” Roberts said. “We’re going on the second year now. Living in the community around people, you don’t now who’s a friend and who’s not your friend. … We need to have the community behind us to pressure the current council that’s doing this to stop it.”

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-715-2274 or

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