Grand Ronde Tribe Adopts Independent Press Ordinance
January 9, 2017
Since 1984, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has published a tribal newspaper called Smoke Signals, but it was on December 28, 2016 that the Grand Ronde Tribal Council joined an increasing number of other Native American Tribes nationwide to adopt an Independent Press Ordinance. The ordinance goes into effect in mid-January and will codify that the tribal news publication has the independence to report Grand Ronde Tribe news objectively and free from undue political influence by tribal elected officials.
Though the Grand Ronde Tribal Constitution, adopted in 1984, does state that the “Tribal Council shall not deny … freedom of speech, press, or religion,” Smoke Signals has been supervised by a manager who reports directly to the Tribal Council for many years. This created concerns among newspaper staff, tribal employees, and Grand Ronde Tribe members about the newspaper’s ability to report news objectively without undue influence.
Chris Mercier, who in the past worked at Smoke Signals as a reporter before being elected to the Tribal Council in 2004, ushered the ordinance through the council.