GRAND RONDE, Ore. – The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has joined an increasing number of other Native American Tribes nationwide in adopting an Independent Press Ordinance that will codify that the Tribal news publication has the independence to report Grand Ronde news objectively and free from undue political influence by Tribal elected officials.
The ordinance was adopted by the Grand Ronde Tribal Council at its Wednesday, Dec. 28, meeting and goes into effect in mid-January.
Although the Grand Ronde Tribal Constitution, adopted in 1984, states that “Tribal Council shall not deny … freedom of speech, press, or religion,” the Tribal publication, Smoke Signals, has for many years been supervised by a manager who reports directly to Tribal Council. The government structure created concerns among newspaper staff members, Tribal employees and Tribal members about the newspaper’s ability to report news objectively without undue influence.
The new ordinance was shepherded through the ordinance process by Tribal Council member Chris Mercier, who previously worked as a reporter for Smoke Signals before being first elected to Tribal Council in 2004.
“Freedom of the press was guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution when this country was founded,” Mercier said. “It has always been a fundamental right of American citizens. I think that when people approved our Tribal Constitution in 1984 they included language for freedom of the press for a reason. I do believe that this is what they had in mind.”
The ordinance will create an Editorial Board of between three and five members with a majority being Grand Ronde Tribal members. The board, which will be appointed by Tribal Council, will supervise the editor of Smoke Signals. Board members will serve for three-year terms and adhere to accepted ethics of journalism as defined by the Society of Professional Journalists and endorsed by the Native American Journalists Association. “The Editorial Board members shall serve their terms of office free from any undue influence or any political interest,” the ordinance states.
The ordinance also requires the editor to adhere to accepted ethics of journalism and to serve free from undue influence and any political interest. The ordinance also provides Smoke Signals staff members with protection from disclosing their sources.
Smoke Signals has been published by the Grand Ronde Tribe since 1984 and is currently published on the first and 15th of each month. The newspaper consistently wins awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and Native American Journalists Association.
About the Tribe
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon includes more than 27 Tribes and Bands from western Oregon, southwestern Washington and northern California that were relocated to the Grand Ronde Reservation between 1855-1875.
These Tribes and Bands include the Rogue River, Umpqua, Chasta, Kalapuya, Molalla, Salmon River, Tillamook and Nestucca Indians.
The Tribes’ ceded lands in Oregon extend from the California border to southwestern Washington, and reach from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
For more information about the Tribe, visit www.grandronde.org.
Contact: Dean Rhodes