Editorial Board releases statement on proposed FOIA changes

BY Phoenix Archives
05/20/2014 09:06 AM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board released the following statement on May 15, 2014, concerning the changes to the Freedom Of Information Act under review by the Tribal Council.

“The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board, which is entrusted with monitoring the performance of the Cherokee Phoenix, the Phoenix’s delivery platforms that serve tribal members, and the provision of timely and correct information to the nation’s citizens, believes the current language in the Freedom of Information Act should be left intact. The FOIA not only embodies and forms the foundation for the nation’s commitment to unbridled communication with its citizens, but also symbolizes the openness of tribal government that tribal members have come to expect and to which they are entitled.

“The FOIA has worked well since 2001 and has helped ensure transparency of tribal operations for our individual citizens and the Phoenix, thereby enhancing government accountability. It represents the progressive nature of the nation and certainly is an enactment of which the nation’s government and tribal members should be proud.

“The Cherokee Nation was the first tribe in Indian Country to have a FOIA law on the books. The statute, along with the Independent Press Act of 2000, was responsible for the tribe receiving the prestigious Elias Boudinot award from the Native American Journalists Association for its contributions to a free press in Indian Country.

“In all states with FOIA laws there are some costs associated with providing access to governmental records, but this is usually considered an insignificant price to pay for ensuring that the public and the press have access to governmental activities. Sometimes requests can be overly broad, and it would be logical for tribal entities to work with those requesting information to narrow the scope so costs would be lessened.

“We consider the changes under consideration by the Tribal Council to the FOIA to be the first regrettable step toward limiting governmental transparency in the Cherokee Nation. Specifically, we would recommend removal of the single-point control over what gets released when the nation receives a FOIA request, to whom and when, so as to remove the potential for political influences infecting the processes, and thus further enhance transparency. Each agency of the nation that is the subject of a FOIA request should be the entity determining compliance with the request and the appropriateness of such a request. To do otherwise, irrespective of who may be the single-point of decision making, does not bode well for independent, non-political decisions.

“Given that the tribe’s primary profit centers are the Cherokee Nation Businesses, it would make sense that those entities, in particular, are not exempt from scrutiny, as has been proposed. There may be, indeed, some reason for keeping proprietary matters under wraps, but that is usually the only limitation for such entities under most FOIA laws. Concerns with the non-release of truly proprietary information should not and cannot form the basis for exempting arms of the nation from the FOIA and, thereby, restricting access to records and information of importance to the nation as a whole.

“Further, extending the time period for responding to requests to 60 days from the current 15 appears to be a mechanism to further dilute the law and make it more difficult for tribal members and the press to obtain relevant information to ensure tribal government is acting in the interest of its citizens.

“In short, the FOIA should remain in its present form and undiluted if the nation, as a government, is going to live up to the goals espoused in the FOIA and in order for the nation’s citizenry to acquire the information and maintain the transparency that gave rise to enactment of the FOIA initially. Darkness and closed-door decisions are, thankfully, for our nation a thing of the past, and they should remain so.”

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/31/2015 04:00 PM
BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) – A Native American group is suing New Jersey officials to demand it be recognized by the state government. The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation filed a federal civil rights suit on July 20 saying that not having recognition hurts its members psychologically and financially. The group, which is based in Bridgeton, traces its history in the area back 12,000 years and says it now has 3,000 members - the majority of them living in the state. New Jersey made the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape its third recognized tribe with a legislative resolution in 1982. But the group says that’s now at risk because of a report the state submitted to the federal government in 2012 that said New Jersey had not recognized tribes – a change that could also affect the Powhatan-Renape Nation and the Ramapough Mountain Indians, which also had been designated by the state. Gregory Werkheiser, a lawyer for the group, said some state officials became nervous more than a decade ago about the possibility of recognized tribes trying to develop casinos. But Werkheiser said the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation has no interest in that, a position spelled out in the group’s constitution. And even if it did, he said, it would take federal recognition – awhich can take decades to secure - for that to happen. The state status is important to the group because, without recognition, it says, its members cannot sell crafts including beadwork, walking sticks, drums, headdresses, regalia, and pottery as “Indian made,” an issue that could cost more than $250,000 a year. Werkheiser said the group’s artisans – many of them senior citizens – have already seen their income take a major hit from that. And the group says it could lose $600,000 in grants, tribal jobs and scholarships that are tied to its designation as a recognized tribe. “State recognition of a tribe has little to no impact on a state budget, except that it may provide tribes access to certain federal benefits that save the state from spending its own dollars,” the group contends in the suit. The state government has not responded to the claims in court. The state Assembly passed a bill in 2011 on procedures for recognizing tribes, but the measure never received a vote in the Senate. A spokesman for John Hoffman, the state acting attorney general, did not immediately return an email seeking comment. The office generally does not talk with reporters about lawsuits it faces.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/31/2015 02:00 PM
NEW YORK – After a dozen of Native American actors felt insulted and walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six” in April, the movie actor recently told the Associated Press the movie is a “pro-Indian” movie. “I talked to some of the actors on the set who were there and let them know that the intention of the movie is 100 percent to just make a funny movie,” Sandler said. “It’s really about American Indians being good to my character and about their family and just being good people. There’s no mocking of American Indians at all in the movie. It’s a pro-Indian movie. So hopefully when people see it — whoever was offended on set and walked out, I hope they realize that, and that’s it. It was kind of taken out of context.” “The Ridiculous Six,” which is scheduled to be released worldwide via Netflex in December, is Sandler’s first production for a multi-move deal he signed with movie-giant Netflix. “The Ridiculous Six” is intended to be a parody to the 1960 “The Magnificent Seven” Hollywood-western. While the Native actors walked off the set, many other Native American actors did stay and continued to work on the production. The actors who walked off the set said they were upset with the demeaning portrayal of Native women and how the movie producers were insensitive to tribal usage of feathers. “At first I was glad to be part of the movie because it is about Apaches, who are like cousins to us, but then I noticed things were not right about how Apaches were depicted,” said Loren Anthony, Navajo. “For one thing, the costumes we were given to wear were more like what plains Indians wear, not Apache. Then the way feathers were desecrated on the set made me sick to the stomach, literally. I was brought up by my elders to respect feathers. The move crew paid no respect to the feathers.” Back in April, Netflex said, “the movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of but in on the joke.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/31/2015 08:00 AM
In this month's issue: • At-Large CN car tag sales gross $1.2M • Warner, Pearson, Hatfield win Tribal Council seats • Court tosses Smith’s election appeal • Cherokee Phoenix wins NAJA, OPA, SPJ awards ...plus much more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9489_2015-08-01.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the August 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9489_HolidayGuide2015.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the 2015 Cherokee National Holiday guide.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2015 04:00 PM
LOS ANGELES – Native Voices is seeking short plays that address the many ways a Native American family forms and functions. Native Voices at the Autry is the only Equity theater company devoted exclusively to developing and producing new works for the stage by Native American, Alaska Native and First Nations playwrights. Plays may be a celebration of family life or an examination of complexities and issues in Native families. Alternately, plays may dramatize traditional family stories or family histories. A reading panel of nationally recognized theater artists and community members will evaluate short plays that are related to the family theme. Selected plays will be presented as staged readings on Nov. 8, as part of the Autry’s annual American Indian Arts Marketplace. A panel of celebrity judges will select the 2015 Von Marie Atchley Award for Excellence in Playwriting, a $1,000 cash prize. For more information and submission details, visit <a href="http://www.TheAutry.org/NativeVoices" target="_blank">TheAutry.org/NativeVoices</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Dream Theatre 312 N. Muskogee Ave., will host the Tribal Film Festival on Sept. 4-5. Film festival officials are calling for “indigenous films with inspiring and uplifting stories that change people’s lives.” The films must be indigenous stories, but filmmakers do not have to be of tribal backgrounds. All videos that are selected will be shown at the red carpet premiere event at the Dream Theatre and the ‘best of’ prizes will also be announced at the event. The winning submissions will also be featured on the TFF’s Facebook page, Twitter newsfeed and in the TFF’s trailer reel, which will play at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill during the 2015 Cherokee National Holiday. According to the TFF’s website, each submission will be eligible for distribution on TribalTV, which is a new broadband channel. Those who are submitting their work must own the content or have the rights to submit the film. Films that contain pornography or ultra-violent material will not be considered. Short films must be less than 20 minutes, which includes the credits. Films that are more that 20 minutes will be entered into the feature film category. The official submission deadline is July 29 with a $20 entry fee. The late submission deadline is Aug. 15 and will cost $30. Digital submissions can be entered at filmfreeway.com and hardcopies can be mailed to P.O. Box 581507 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74158-1507. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.tribalfilmfestival.com" target="_blank">www.tribalfilmfestival.com</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
07/30/2015 08:00 AM
BRIGGS, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Community and Cultural Outreach has found a way to help CN citizens and local community members learn more about the Cherokee culture with its Cultural Enlightenment Series. The series is held the second Tuesday of each month, and in July it took place at the TRI Community Association W.E.B. Building (Welling, Eldon and Briggs) in Briggs. Those attending watched participants play Cherokee marbles, weave baskets and perform other family and culture-friendly activities. CCO Director Rob Daugherty said this is just one of the many communities his department reaches out to within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. “This is one of the buildings that we helped start fund along with other departments of the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “In our jurisdiction area we have several of these building and we work with approximately 38 community buildings that we have. We work with way more communities than that, but this is one of them.” Daugherty, who watched the marble games, said he’s glad the community has taken up the sport. “We’re real proud of this organization here in that they started doing this marbles. (They) picked up one of the old games, and now Cherokee Nation’s coming out here and hosting tournaments,” he said. “The good thing about this game is it doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matte what size you are. It doesn’t matter what level of skill. This is a game that you’re pretty well even starting out. It looks like it’s a games of just haphazardly movements, but there’s a strategy to this game. They’re playing teams, and you can tell among themselves they’re talking where to move, who to hit, where to sit and so forth.” Daugherty said it is also important to use the Cherokee language in the Cultural Enlightenment Series. “Language is really big in my department, so one of the things that I have suggested is no matter what you do incorporate Cherokee language in there,” he said. John Sellers, TRI Community W.E.B. Association president, said he was glad to have the CN come to the building to show community members Cherokee culture. “We attend classes about once a month at the (Cherokee) Nation’s complex and they saw our facilities and they were talking about the old traditional marble games, and we’ve been asking questions about the rules, how you do it. So they come out here to show us and they said, ‘hey, we’ll just have our regular monthly meeting out here and do that,’” he said. “Then, at the same time we got a call and said they had a lady that wanted to do the basket weaving and I said, ‘bring her on.’” Sellers said he is thankful to the CN for all it has done for the community. “I can’t say enough for Cherokee Nation,” he said. “I mean we couldn’t do what we’re doing if it wasn’t for them.” For more information about the Cultural Enlightenment Series, visit <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CNCCO" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/CNCCO</a>.