Lawsuit aims to stop sale of building that houses 'DNA of the Pacific Northwest' | KNKX

Lawsuit aims to stop sale of building that houses 'DNA of the Pacific Northwest'

Jan 4, 2021

The National Archives building in Seattle houses the “DNA of the Pacific Northwest.” So says state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. He's suing the federal government to halt the sale of the large warehouse near the north shores of Lake Washington.

Ferguson says a five-member federal committee called the Public Buildings Reform Board is pushing the sale of the property forward.


“It is so frustrating, and that's putting it kindly. It's so frustrating that, candidly, a bunch of federal bureaucrats 3,000 miles away are pushing this through without any consultation with tribes, without any public input, ignoring their own laws and processes for how to handle a sale like this,” said Ferguson during a news conference over Zoom to announce the lawsuit.


The Public Buildings Reform Board is tasked with selling off excess federal property. The 73-year-old building sits on 10 acres of valuable real estate. It needs more than $2 million in deferred maintenance.


This building holds documents from the Northwest and Alaska -- such as immigration papers, court records, personal letters and photographs -- going back to the mid-1800s. If the building is sold, everything inside, including the history of federally recognized tribes, will be moved to California and Missouri.


Tribal leaders say such a move would be an enormous loss for tribal members who rely on the archives to better understand their history.


“We have an incredible brain trust here in the Pacific Northwest, a rich and vibrant history. And we, this generation, is witnessing our history come to life with the resurgence of our language, our cultures, our songs, our dance, tribal journeys. And we're just getting to a point of just having a basic understanding of this rich and vast history,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation.


The lawsuit cites several ways the government is not properly handling the sale and is asking a federal judge to halt the process. The State of Oregon and 29 federally recognized tribes are joining the lawsuit. 


Members of the Public Buildings Reform Board have not responded to requests for comment.