IHS Issues Guidance Re: Nooksack Disenrollment, Health Care, Drinking Water

On Friday, the federal Indian Health Service (IHS) issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the disenrollment-fueled annihilation at Nooksack, after holding two listening sessions in Bellingham last month.  

The federal guidance is unprecedented, especially as to disenrollment, a subject that the federal government typically does not touch. A few excerpts:

Q: Is IHS taking our funding because of the Nooksack 306 members?

A: No; the IHS cannot engage in an ISDEAA contract with the Nooksack Indian Tribe until the Department of Interior determines the Tribe is acting in accordance with the Tribe's Constitution and Bylaws. The holdover council does not have standing to represent the Nooksack Indian Tribe in a government-to-government relationship with the Indian Health Service, as well as other federal agencies.

Q: Is the IHS determining who represents the Nooksack Indian Tribe?
A: No, the Department of the Interior is the lead for the federal government in issues involving tribal governance.

Q: Is our tribal clinic closing?

A: The IHS cannot say whether the tribal clinic will remain open; that is a decision only the Tribe can make. However, after June 13, 2017, the IHS will not have any relationship with the tribal clinic and the tribal clinic will no longer have access to the cost-savings and tort coverage it receives as an ISDEAA contractor.

Q: What actions are being taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure safe drinking water for the Nooksack Tribal Community?

A: According to the March 27, 2017, letter from the EPA the Tribe failed to meet drinking water regulations. The EPA has issued Unilateral Administrative Orders that took effect on April 10, 2017.

Q: What has IHS done to help the Nooksack Tribal community have safe drinking water?

A: IHS engineers and utility consultants have provided the Tribe with technical assistance to help meet the EPA regulatory requirements.

Q: Can IHS do more to provide additional support to ensure Nooksack Tribal community has safe drinking water?

A: IHS utility consultants maintain communication with members from the tribal water utility and will continue technical assistance. However, IHS cannot assist with constructing improvements to the community water systems until the Tribal Council governance issues are resolved.

Galanda Broadman, PLLC, represents over 330 Nooksack Tribal members, including but not limited to at least 50 members who are not proposed for disenrollment but simply want a Tribal Council election to be conducted.