The U.S. states of Washington and Oregon, along with dozens of Native American tribes and cultural groups, sued the federal government on Monday to stop the sale of the National Archives building in the city of Seattle.
After the planned sale of the facility by the government, the records would be moved to National Archives facilities in Kansas City and in Riverside, California.
The National Archives building in Seattle hosts exclusive and un-digitized tribal and treaty records, as well as Chinese Exclusion Act case files and records regarding the internmen
Dt of Japanese Americans during World War II. The records are invaluable resources for researchers, historians and individuals seeking information about their family history or heritage. For instance, tribal members use federal archive records to establish tribal membership, demonstrate and enforce tribal rights to fishing and other activities, trace their lineage and ancestry and access native school records. According NARA’s Seattle director, only “.001% of the facility’s 56,000 cubic feet of records are digitized and available online.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, asserts the sale violates the conditions Congress placed on agencies’ ability to sell federal properties on an expedited basis and fails to appropriately account for the records’ importance to the Pacific Northwest region. Further, the federal government refused to consult or cooperate with local stakeholders, including tribal governments, in making the decision to sell the property.
Talmage Hocker, a Kentucky commercial real estate developer appointed to the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) by President Donald Trump, said in a December 2020 interview with the L.A. Times that his agency’s recommendation to sell the property would allow it to “become a part of the community, as opposed to what it is today.”
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