By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
When the One Feather was created, a group of community leaders determined that the Tribe should have a way to put out information from the government in mass production so that decisions made by the government were provided quickly to the citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The founders referred to the One Feather as a news bulletin. The vision for the community newspaper has been evolving since its conception, beginning with the funding by grant of a mimeographed 5-page business-letter format newsletter with hand drawn illustrations to a professionally printed, tabloid format thirty to forty-page full newspaper with full-color photography funded through a combination of tribal allotment and advertising sales revenue.
One of the milestones in the history of free press on the Boundary occurred in 2006 with the creation of the Free Press Act. Within it was the statement that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Free Press shall not be hindered by political influence and is duty bound to be a conduit for the citizenry to petition for redress of grievances. Fancy words for using the EBCI Free Press to share your disagreements, and affirmations, with government in a fair and unbiased forum.
The framers of the Free Press Act in the Cherokee Code had a vision of the One Feather (and whatever free press that might be created on the Qualla Boundary-is implied), to be an information disseminator and community forum. It was not the vision for the paper to be a good news or happy news leaflet.
Government-owned free press is an oxymoron. The tribal newspaper is funded, in large part, by the government. Being so is a two-edged sword. While we enjoy the ability to operate in an environment that has crippled and even eliminated many print media outlets, we also must be ever vigilant concerning political and special interest influence. In the history of the Cherokee One Feather, there have been administrations, tribal management, and even legislators who have attempted to insert or successfully inserted political and personal bias in the reporting of the One Feather.
When I first encountered the One Feather as an employee of the Tribe in 2002, even I saw it as a tribal newsletter. I thought it proper that, since it is owned and operated by the government and the principal chief was the representative head of the government, the chief of the Tribe should dictate what was in the newspaper. Fortunately, over the course of a decade, and many discussions with my now reporter, I had come to realize that the One Feather was much more than a government newsletter. It may have started out that way, but based on the introduction of legislation influenced by community voters, the government itself expressed that the One Feather should not be a newsletter, but a true newspaper, one that belongs to the community and not to the governmental leadership.
And starting with the language established in the Cherokee Code in 2006, the One Feather staff, government, and community began to craft what free press means in Cherokee. I can only speak to the efforts since I formally joined the One Feather staff in 2012. While here, we have attempted to craft legislation to further establish a functioning editorial board to craft policy within the organization to clarify our charge to be a free press. It is challenging. As we have said many times, we currently enjoy the most pro-free press administration and Tribal Council that I am aware of in the history of our tribe. So much so, in fact, that they are reluctant to exert any pressure on the reporting of the One Feather.
But, it has always been my position that we are only one scandal or disagreement away from a politically adversarial relationship with government. We have had the Free Press Act for 14 years, but we have had a personnel policy for much longer than that. There has always been a conflict in the language of the personnel policy and the charge of One Feather staff, who also happen to be Tribal employees.
In the EBCI Personnel Policy, Section 3.25 is titled Non-public information outlining a detailed list of what the public is not entitled to. At the end of the list it makes a broad statement about information that can be withheld from the public, including the One Feather, any other information as determined by EBCI management. Our Cherokee Code includes similar language in the Public Records law (Chapter 132). Section 4.20 of the personnel policy states, Should an employee be contacted by the press or any outside agency requesting non-public information, the request shall be given to that persons supervisor, who will forward it through levels of authority with final approval to be made by the Principal Chief.
Technically, that means even my reporters would be bound to clear stories including any governmental decision or function, with me and ultimately the Chief, assuming a tribal employee took the risk of providing that information without proper clearance, before we made it public. Article 8 of the personnel policy is the Code of Ethical Conduct. Section 2 refers to confidentiality inherent in the policy and that some departments may require an additional confidentiality agreement to be signed as a condition of employment.
The Tribal Employee Ethical Code of Conduct also includes this language, All EBCI employees are expected to conduct themselves with integrity, impartiality, and professional conduct that will reflect favorably upon themselves and the EBCI. Again, technically, this could put reporters (and the editor) in a position of conflict with tribal policy.
The Free Press Act doesnt say that we are to report only the news that is favorable to the EBCI. In fact, I view all factual reporting, whether it places government in a favorable light or not, as reporting with integrity, impartiality, and professionalism. To do otherwise would conflict with Chapter 75 of the Cherokee Code and with the code of ethics adopted from the Society of Professional Journalists, which we are also bound by Code to adhere to.
A few years ago, the EBCI personnel policy was removed from tribal law, but it is still the standard by which employees are hired, evaluated, and terminated. And while the Free Press Act generally provided guidance about the conduct of the One Feather, it provided little protection for those reporting the news in an unbiased fashion to the public. So, this year we asked for and received additional protections for the newspaper to protect the personnel in the execution of duties. It is not the elected officials themselves, but the governmental mechanisms that caused concern. Tribal Council expressed agreement with that concern and voted for protections that will further the cause of free speech and freedom of information on the Boundary. Principal Chief Sneed also expressed his agreement through signing the legislation into law.
Could the One Feather be politically influenced even with personnel protections? Absolutely, that other edge of the sword is that Tribal Council is the holder of the purse-strings of the program. A majority vote could be taken to defund the One Feather and it would disappear. The newspaper is far from self-sustaining. In the current economic environment, small local newspapers are falling by the wayside. Many of us, including the One Feather, are trying to shift advertising models to a more digital, web-based approach, which is full of its own challenges.
Tribal Council, the Executive Office, and the One Feather have agreed on the idea and importance of Free Press, even when it comes to outside press organizations. But the continuation of this positive environment for free speech is fragile in the case of the One Feather and, indeed, all local print media.
Margaret Sullivan recently authored a book titled Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy. In the introduction, she addresses the negative progress for a community who reduces or loses its local free media. It matters-immensely. As Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, put it: If we dont monitor power at the local level, there will be a massive abuse of power at the local level. And thats just the beginning of the damages thats already been done, with much more on the way. As a major PEN America study concluded in 2019: As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office. Democracy, in other words, loses its foundation. (PEN stands for Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists)
Adding to the loss of democratic foundation is the misinformation in the unregulated social media paradigm. It is amazing that it has to be said in modern culture, but not everything you see on the internet and particularly on social media is true, even if it is related to you by a friend. As local media shifts its focus to this digital environment, we will have to be the clearing houses for fact for the community.
The One Feather and tribal government continue to work together to ensure your access to information and continue to provide an avenue for free thought and expression for the readership. You are in the drivers seat as far as what the One Feather will look like in the future. And you will decide what your freedom looks like in the process.
Finally, a quick shout out across the decades to Principal Chief Jarrett Blythe, Charlotte Sneed, Winona Digh, and Ella West, who are listed in Volume One, Number One of the Cherokee One Feather as the committee appointed to oversee the task of creating the Cherokee One Feather. They are also listed as the original editors. They said, Cherokee custom, before the advent of the white man, was for the warriors to wear a single eagle feather. The feather was a symbol of the warriors standing within the tribe and was earned through a series of courageous acts or deeds. To be able to wear the feather, a young warrior had to be battle-tested and approved in special ceremony. In search of an acceptable name for our news communication, we were unable to uncover a more suitable title than the Cherokee One Feather, noting its important symbolism in the Cherokee past.
And, kudos to all the past and present editors, reporters, subscription clerks, and advertising staff who have been part of the One Feather evolution. In the war of words, you were and are the warriors for the cause of free speech.
I heard the effort toward a Cherokee constitution mentioned in a recent Tribal Council work session. I would implore those who will be editing and presenting the constitution proposal, and those government officials who will be ultimately bringing it before the people for a vote, please put free speech and free press rights at the forefront of your governing document. Social systems succeed or collapse on those rights of freedom.
- Diversity Dialogues Raise Issues of Women's Rights, Sexual Identity and Individual Freedom - University of Arkansas Newswire - February 20th, 2021
- Capitol Talk: Antifa; 'Religious Freedom', And Limits On Local Control - MTPR - February 20th, 2021
- John Mayall: The blues have given me musical freedom - Olean Times Herald - February 20th, 2021
- Greta comes out in support of Disha, says freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest non-negotiable - The Tribune India - February 20th, 2021
- Mosaic Announces Long-Term Partnership with Freedom Forever - PRNewswire - February 20th, 2021
- Creative freedom restricted by cloaking it in religion - The Hindu - February 20th, 2021
- Statutes of Liberty: Freedom of Information Act Requests are Free for Immigrants and U.S. Citizens - ARLnow - February 20th, 2021
- Woman who fought for racial equity as a Freedom Rider reflects on the past, gives outlook on the future - WLWT Cincinnati - February 20th, 2021
- Rescue horses move to Freedom to teach, provide therapy for people in need of rescue - Boothbay Register - February 20th, 2021
- Sudan: Forces of Freedom of Change refuses army appointments as governors - Middle East Monitor - February 20th, 2021
- Freedom Foods sees another CFO depart troubled Australian dairy business - just-food.com - February 20th, 2021
- Opinion | Give Fred Gray the Medal of Freedom, because no one deserves it more - alreporter.com - February 20th, 2021
- Biden Has No Time to Lose on Freedom of Navigation Operations Against China - Foreign Policy - February 20th, 2021
- The scars of solitary: Albert Woodfox on freedom after 44 years in a concrete cell - The Guardian - February 20th, 2021
- Washington Spirit owners, Freddy Adu, and more: Freedom Kicks - Black And Red United - February 20th, 2021
- Readers Write: Impeachment trial, freedom of speech, the cold weather - Minneapolis Star Tribune - February 20th, 2021
- What the Trump administration meant for freedom of information requests - Columbia Journalism Review - February 20th, 2021
- Freedom and security: On social media platforms operating in India - The Hindu - February 20th, 2021
- 'You have to stay strong': 102-year-old freedom fighter's message to Disha Ravi - Hindustan Times - February 20th, 2021
- Freedom | Definition of Freedom at Dictionary.com - December 3rd, 2020
- Freedom - Wikipedia - December 3rd, 2020
- After 400 Years, The Reason People Come To America Is Still ... - December 3rd, 2020
- Medicare Advantage Plans for Florida at Freedom Health ... - December 3rd, 2020
- Freedom of Religion or Belief club formed at BYU - The Daily Universe - Universe.byu.edu - September 18th, 2020
- Freedom 76 At Grandview Will Be Live On FloRacing - FloRacing - September 18th, 2020
- Aviation Analysis: Revival of Fifth Freedom Flights? - Sam Chui - September 18th, 2020
- Trump Attacks The 1619 Project: U.S. Wasnt Founded On Slavery And Oppression, It Was Freedom - Moguldom - September 18th, 2020
- PAUL TIYAMBE ZELEZA - Beyond Political Freedom to Inclusive Wealth Creation and Self-Reliance - The Elephant - September 18th, 2020
- Backyard pool will bring joy and freedom to Niagara Falls boy - StCatharinesStandard.ca - September 18th, 2020
- Parson James Talks New Single, Lockdown, and Artistic Freedom - vmagazine.com - September 18th, 2020
- Private Railways Will Have Freedom To Set Their Own Fares: Government - NDTV - September 18th, 2020
- McCarthy focused on election, not Freedom Caucus push to remove Pelosi - Roll Call - September 18th, 2020
- Julian Assange, and Press Freedom, on Trial in London - Democracy Now! - September 18th, 2020
- Heres How to Retire at 45 with Financial Freedom - Investment U - September 18th, 2020
- Freedom and Madison off to a 'super' school year - Conway Daily Sun - September 2nd, 2020
- Freedom and Independence group formed to combat Soviet terror founded 75 years ago today - The First News - September 2nd, 2020
- Will it be Freedom Hilly cross country course? - The Macomb Daily - September 2nd, 2020
- Joliet Township Sued Under The Freedom of Information Act; Unauthorized Fees - Edgar County Watchdogs - September 2nd, 2020
- OPINION/LETTER: Gun range noise is the 'sound of freedom' - Cape Cod Times - September 2nd, 2020
- What was the Red Sox best trade-deadline acquisition? Freedom from luxury-tax penalties - The Boston Globe - September 2nd, 2020
- Fortify Your Home on the Cheap, Part 2 - America's 1st Freedom - September 2nd, 2020
- Sen. Gardner touts vaccine progress, pandemic legislation at Steamboat Institute's Freedom Conference in Beaver Creek - Steamboat Pilot and Today - September 2nd, 2020
- 'Zombies of the Corn' haunted attraction set for 8th season of frightful fun in Freedom - TribLIVE - September 2nd, 2020
- President Armen Sarkissian: Artsakh Was the Spark Which Lit the Fire of Freedom - Armenian News by MassisPost - September 2nd, 2020
- One Database to Rule Them All: The Invisible Content Cartel that Undermines the Freedom of Expression Online - EFF - September 2nd, 2020
- Personal freedom is still limited in most of the Islamic world - The Economist - September 2nd, 2020
- 'Mental Freedom' part two - The River Reporter - September 2nd, 2020
- Tuesday Freedom Kicks: Gelmin Rivas to D.C. United, continued fallout at Real Salt Lake, and more - Black And Red United - September 2nd, 2020
- Freedom Means Something Different to Liberals and Conservatives. Heres How the Definition SplitAnd Why That Still Matters - TIME - August 31st, 2020
- Trademark Parody and Freedom of Speech in the U.S. - JD Supra - August 31st, 2020
- D.C., Loudoun lose, Weston to Juve done & more: Freedom Kicks for 8/31/20 - Black And Red United - August 31st, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: The real meaning of freedom - The Bakersfield Californian - August 31st, 2020
- Bass: Exercising freedom to be exposed to COVID-19 - Berkshire Eagle - August 31st, 2020
- Dean Cain: NYC becoming land of the flee as people leave in search of more freedom - Fox News - August 31st, 2020
- In Conversation: Georgia Anne Muldrow on Finding Freedom as Jyoti - FLOOD Magazine - August 31st, 2020
- Watershed moment for freedom of speech: Prashant Bhushan on SC verdict. Read full statement here - Hindustan Times - August 31st, 2020
- Trumps ban of TikTok and WeChat would reduce Americans freedom of speech and harm foreign investment in the U.S. - MarketWatch - August 31st, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: It's All About Freedom - Centralia Chronicle - August 31st, 2020
- CLARK B. HALL: Rare images record freedom in the making - starexponent.com - August 31st, 2020
- Tantrum Or Freedom Of Expression Over Face Masks? - wcrz.com - August 31st, 2020
- This is my freedom of speech - Newnan Times-Herald - August 31st, 2020
- There are limits to freedom - Mount Airy News - August 31st, 2020
- Freedom in the Muslim World - Cato Institute - August 31st, 2020
- Shevar Perry to Open Solo Exhibit Moments of Freedom August 24th, 2020 - Suburban Journals - August 31st, 2020
- 'I enjoy the freedom and picking funds': why this doctor ditched his 250,000 NHS pension - Telegraph.co.uk - August 31st, 2020
- Freedom and the pursuit of safety - The Boston Globe - August 10th, 2020
- Texas History: Sizing up daily lives in the states freedom colonies - Brownwood Bulletin - August 10th, 2020
- Columbia Professor Sarah Seo to Talk about 'Cars, Police and Freedom in the United States' on Thursday - Redheaded Blackbelt - August 10th, 2020
- Finding Freedom by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand Harry and Meghan and the making of a modern royal family - The Guardian - August 10th, 2020
- She Wanted More Freedom and Meaning From Her Career - The Story Exchange - August 10th, 2020
- This Week in Washington IP: Injunctions for SEPs, How Innovation Flourishes in Freedom, and Reviewing SBIR/STTR at the National Science Foundation -... - August 10th, 2020
- Adolescent bodily integrity and freedom from violence in Ethiopia - Ethiopia - ReliefWeb - August 10th, 2020
- Breaking the loan shackle: How to win freedom from debt - Moneycontrol.com - August 10th, 2020
- Behind The Blue: 'Embattled Freedom' And Confederate Memorials - Patch.com - August 10th, 2020
- Mapping Media Freedom: Big Increase in Threats Reported in Albania During 2020 - Exit - Explain Albania - August 10th, 2020
- Flight to Freedom: Pilot lands in Nueces County to pick up two abandoned dogs due to pandemic and flies them to their new foster home - KIIITV.com - August 10th, 2020
- Opinion | With Trump appointing anti-abortion judges, the fight for reproductive freedom is critical - Street Roots News - August 10th, 2020
- 'Behind the Blue': 'Embattled Freedom' and Confederate Memorials With Amy Murrell Taylor - UKNow - August 10th, 2020
- Trump's Threat to Press Freedom Is Global - Truthout - August 10th, 2020
- OPINION: What freedom means to the United States - The Student Life - August 10th, 2020