NAJA Free Press Resource Page
Tribal nations have the sovereignty to decide how they want to protect freedoms of press and information. More and more do, but the problem is that too many still do not.
The Native American Journalists Association has a dedicated Free Press Committee and many resources for members and others to use to make a difference. This resource page provides two major examples of tribes that decided to do just that – the Osage Nation and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Through this committee, NAJA members developed the essential elements of an independent tribal media.
Each tribe has the sovereignty to do what is best for that specific tribe, but we have learned from hard-fought experience that these elements do the best job to preserve independence.
This page also has links available to access other useful member resources such as the NAJA Legal Hotline for Journalists and a legal resource room with a bibliography and links about free press and information in Indian Country. There is an FOI module for knowing the basics for accessing federal, state, and tribal records in and about Indian Country.
We need your support and involvement so we can spread the best ideas for how tribes protect freedoms of press and information. Join NAJA today!
Free Press Committee chair Shannon Shaw Duty (Osage) works as the editor of The Osage News, which has won numerous journalism awards, including the prestigious Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 for holding tribal leaders accountable under the Osage Open Records Act.
"Our hope for this free press page is to aid our NAJA tribal media outlets that struggle with bringing sunlight to their respective governments,” she said. "We know how hard our jobs are in bringing information to our communities. We hope the Free Press legislation examples provided by the Osage and Cherokee Nations can be utilized to support the free flow of news and information for our NAJA members."
One of the first tribes in the nation to pass free press and free information acts is the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, which continues to publish the very first American Indian newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix.
NAJA Free Press Committee member Bryan Pollard (Cherokee), as editor of The Phoenix, has learned that daily vigilance is necessary to keep free press and information for the Cherokee people. The Phoenix was the first paper to receive the Elias Boudinot Award.
"Tribal businesses continue to grow financially and tribal governments continue to grow in complexity as a result,” Pollard said. “It is now more important than ever that tribal citizens have the information necessary to understand these changes and how it effects their lives, their families and their communities. An active and unfettered independent press is vital to our cultural wellbeing during this time of rapid economic development.”
The Osage and Cherokee editors are part of a growing team of Native American journalists, attorneys, professors, and other interested citizens and professionals who fight to protect free press and information in Indian Country.
"It is our hope that as a community of native journalists, we can work together to enhance the voice of the tribal press in all our tribal nations,” Pollard said. “The resources on this page should serve as a catalyst to empower those seeking a path toward truthful reporting and government transparency."
As you can see from the linked files, legislation often is amended, which either strengthens of weakens the laws. Please share examples from other tribes as we want to archive best practices.
NAJA Free Press Committee members include Duty, Pollard, and Kevin Kemper (Choctaw/ Cherokee), as well as Christina Good Voice (Muscogee Creek / Cherokee) and Benny Polacca (Hopi/Pima/Havasupai/Tohono O'odham).
If you are a NAJA member and have a question or need that requires the advice of an attorney, contact the NAJA Legal Hotline for Journalists or 405-872-6107. Media and intellectual property attorneys across the United States with knowledge about Indian Country provide legal advice and representation for members, under certain conditions.