Tribes, preservation societies join lawsuit to save National Archives in Seattle

SEATTLE — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a federal lawsuit to stop the sale of the National Archives building in Seattle.

More than three dozen tribes and community groups are joining the effort to keep President Donald Trump’s administration from moving their historical artifacts away.

The Regional Headquarters of the National Archive is behind secured fencing in Seattle’s Sandpoint neighborhood.

Our camera went inside last January just after the sale was announced and just before the pandemic hit Washington.

This is where the history, tragic and triumphant and personal, of the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska, is kept.

“There’s a lot of history here that is very close by that we can go ahead and access,” said Robert de los Angeles, chairman of Snoqualmie Indian Tribe.

“Many people who fought for reparations for Japanese-Americans consulted archives because, again, like the old Chinese and the Filipinos-Chinese American, especially prior to 1950, also have the records here,” said Connie So of OCA Asian Pacific Advocates.

But in a move that came as a surprise to many, the Trump administration decided to sell the property and disperse the collection to Kansas City and Riverside, California.

Now led by Ferguson, 29 Tribes, nine community organizations and the state of Oregon filed a lawsuit to stop the sale of the archive.

After a year of talks, the administration is pressing ahead with a sale that could be completed by early this year.

“This federal agency, these federal agencies just don’t care.”

Ferguson said the facility is protected under federal law.

“We’re saying there’s a specific exemption under the law that says you cannot sell this property because of the research that’s done there,” he said.

They’re hoping to hold off any sale, at least until President-elect Joe Biden takes office in two weeks.

“We anticipate that as the issues do emerge and as we continue to work on this through a transitional period, that we’ll have a very favorable response from a new administration,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation.