Cherokee Nation FOIA process allows access for public records

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
10/14/2019 05:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Freedom of Information and Rights of Privacy Act is designed for CN citizens to access a range of information within the tribe, including public documents, meetings and records and to ensure transparency of tribal operations.

The FOIA was enacted in 2001, and the CN is the first federally recognized tribe in Indian Country to implement a FOIA.

“Citizens have a right to know the basis of the formulation of public policy,” the FOIA states. “Therefore, it is the public policy of the Cherokee Nation that citizens shall be advised of the performance of public officials and of the decisions that are reached in public activity.”

To access information, a CN citizen must complete a FOIA request form and turn it in to Information Officer Gwen Terrapin for processing. The form can be found online at attorneygeneral.cherokee.org/foia-gra-requests/. Terrapin’s office is located in Room 132 of the Annex Building (Old Motel) on the Tribal Complex.

“The Cherokee Nation is an open and transparent government, and having a freedom of information act allows tribal citizens to get information ranging from real estate to funding or employee directory information,” Terrapin said.

Information needed for the form is a date of the request; proof of CN citizenship; a reasonably written description of the records or information sought; specification of how information will be shared by either flash drive or hard copy; agreeing to a payment of copies or other fees if needed; and name, address and phone number of requestor.

A fee may be established or collected by the public body that does not exceed the cost of searching for or making copies of records, according to the FOIA. One can request a waiver of fees if the information will be used for public interest.

According to the act, each governmental department or branch of the executive or legislative public or corporate body has 20 business days from the date of the request to notify the requestor of its determination to relay the requested information or deny with reason that it is a proper FOIA request.

According to the FOIA, “public records include all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by the public body.”

The public body is any CN board, commission, agency, authority, any public or governmental body or political subdivision of the CN.

Some records and information are exempt from disclosure including information of a personal nature that would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, trade secrets, records of law enforcement under investigation and documents to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sales or purchase of property among other records and information that can be found in the CN FOIA laws.

“A tribal citizen can access records and business of the tribe that readily exists and is not proprietary, under litigation or discloses personal information,” Terrapin said.

For more information visit attorneygeneral.cherokee.org.
About the Author
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing ...
lindsey-bark@cherokee.org • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing ...

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