In Washington State, a casino operated by the Nooksack Tribe is back to the business of gaming after the tribe was able to come to an agreement with the National Indian Gaming Commission. The Nooksack Northwood Casino reopened this past weekend in Lynden after being shut down for close to three months after the operators were accused of being in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
According to Indianz.com, the settlement will see the tribe having to resolve the issues as identified during the notice of violation and order of closure from June 15th. The settlement was signed by Bob Kelly on Friday, the individual who remained in a leadership position based on a separate memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Interior.
In a statement late last week, Kelly stated he was glad the Memorandum of Agreement was negotiated and the settlement was agreed upon with the National Indian Gaming Commission so that the tribe can now move forward with their journey of self-government. The tribe will no longer have to pay a $15 million fine per the settlement agreement.
The casino was closed a few months ago when Kelly was not recognized as the legitimate leader of the Nooksack tribe by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The agency stated that his government was not legitimate as he did not hold elections to fill four empty tribal council seats. Kelly was recognized as a person of authority via the Memorandum of Agreement. Once the document was signed on the 25th of last month, an election was called by Kelly to fill the vacant seats.
To be able to restore their relationship with the United States in a government to government basis, the tribe made the agreement to accept anyone who has been subject to recent disenrollment proceedings. Included is The Nooksack 306, a group whose members challenged Kelly when he tried to strip them of their citizenship.
Leadership issues within a tribe are not uncommon but federal agencies will not step in unless they feel that the leader or group has not been able to maintain a legitimate government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs stated that the government of the Nooksack tribe did not have a quorum since March of last year. Warnings were sent several times but Kelly and his council continued to remove more than 280 people from their tribe within a year time frame.
Funding was then suspended by federal agencies for the tribe, including by the BIA. The money then was provided again once Kelly signed the Memorandum of Agreement.