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Idaho’s Nez Perce Join Legal Fight Against Moving Northwest States’ Historical Documents

National Archives And Records

Idaho’s Nez Perce tribe is part of a lawsuit against the federal government aimed at stopping the sale of the National Archives and Records Administration building in Seattle.

One year ago, the Trump Administration announced the sale of multiple federal properties across the country, including the records building in Seattle which sits on valuable land just northeast of the University of Washington campus. Historical records from the four states inside — Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Idaho — would be moved to Kansas City and southern California.

Historians and politicians were caught by surprise. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a long-anticipated lawsuit to stop the move Jan. 4, just three months after the Public Buildings Reform Board quietly decided to push the sale of the property up to early 2021 instead of this July.

“It's so frustrating that, candidly,” Ferguson said in a press conference announcing the lawsuit, “a bunch of federal bureaucrats 3,000 miles away are pushing this through without any consultation with tribes, without public input, ignoring their own laws and processes.”

Jan. 8, Ferguson’s office said it had also requested an immediate temporary injunction to immediately stop the sales process as part of the lawsuit.

“There's a specific exemption for buildings like the National Archives from being put up for sale in this way,” Ferguson explained. “When those facilities are used for research in connection with federal, agricultural, recreational or conservation programs.”

While this is the first lawsuit specifically aimed at stopping the sale of the building, mynorthwest.com reports Ferguson’s office last summer filed three separate lawsuits over unfilled Freedom of Information Act requests related to the sale of the building.

The Seattle archives building is home to a significant collection of tribal and treaty records relating to the 272 federally recognized tribes in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The archives contain original drafts of tribal treaties and original copies of correspondence from treaty negotiations during the mid-19th century.

The Nez Perce are among 29 tribal governments, nine other organizations and the state of Oregon joining the lawsuit.

Idaho attorney general Lawrence Wasden was notified, but is not a participant. Through a spokesman, Wasden declined to comment on the issue.

Ferguson plans a public hearing via zoom Jan. 19 at 4:30 MT. Comments will be recorded and sent to members of the Public Buildings Reform Board.

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News. He's also heard Saturday nights on Boise State Public Radio Music's Jazz Conversations.