Categories Legal Guide

Press Freedom & Freedom of Information in Oklahoma Indian Country – Cyber Armada Hub

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This guide provides a primer on press freedom and information access in the many federally recognized tribes located in Oklahoma. Reporters Committee staff developed this guide by reviewing constitutions and codes available on tribes’ websites, as well as by inspecting materials available at the National Indian Law Library, the Tribal Court Clearinghouse, and the Native American Journalists Association. If you see something that needs to be added, updated, or corrected, please email guides@rcfp.org.

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This guide does not replace legal advice from an attorney. Journalists and media lawyers who have additional questions or need assistance should contact the Reporters Committee’s free Legal Hotline.

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Tribal governance

Nearly 40 federally recognized tribes are located in Oklahoma, each of which is recognized by the United States as sovereign. Sovereignty is the right of each tribe to govern itself and determine its own cultural and political identity.

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As sovereign nations, tribes have the right to enact, enforce, and interpret their own laws. Constitutional provisions limiting federal and state powers, including the First Amendment, do not directly apply to them. See Talton v. Mayes, 163 U.S. 376 (1896) (holding that the Fifth Amendment does not apply to tribes); see also Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49 (1978) (noting lower court decisions that applied Talton to other constitutional rights). State laws such as the Oklahoma Open Records Act or the Open Meeting Act also do not apply to tribes.

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Overview

Many tribal nations located in Oklahoma have enacted their own laws related to press freedom and information access. For this primer, we surveyed 38 federally recognized tribal nations located in Oklahoma and found:

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  • 28 tribal nations explicitly protect press freedom, and many tribal constitutions include language mirroring the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Others identify as consistent with the U.S. Constitution but do not specifically mention the press. This resource notes instances where the press is referenced explicitly.
  • 32 tribal nations have record access provisions (i.e., freedom of information laws). Many apply exclusively to tribal citizens.
  • 37 tribal nations have provisions relating to meeting notice or quorum requirements. The notice timelines and quorum sizes vary greatly.
  • At least 3 tribal nations have shield laws, or a law designed to protect reporters’ privilege.
  • Most tribes have a media outlet or communications team that publishes tribal news. However, the majority of these publications are part of their respective tribal governments and do not function independently. The Native American Journalists Association maintains a list of suggested elements for independent tribal media.

Check out our interactive map showing press freedom information for different tribes located in Oklahoma.

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Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.astribe.com

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Public records: The tribe has a freedom of information handbook. The tribal secretary handles requests, including appeals, with support from the tribal executive committee. Much like in the federal FOIA process, responses are typically due in 20 days barring unusual circumstances or conditions.

Exemptions to the tribe’s policy are identical to the federal FOIA exemptions. The policy also does not apply to general circulation materials, such as policy statements, case opinions, and administrative manuals. Informant records and pending law enforcement records are also excluded. A.S.T. Freedom of Info. Act Handbook.

Generally, all court records are public. A.S.T. Courts Code § 113(d). In particular, for claims against the tribe or one of its employees, “judgments, orders, and settlements of claims shall be open public records unless sealed by the court for good cause shown.” A.S.T. Gov’t. Tort Claims Act § 12.

Tampering with public records is a criminal offense. It carries penalties up to life banishment, which can occur after multiple offenses. A.S.T. Crim. Law Code § 412.

Open meetings: According to the tribal constitution, “All meetings of each of the tribal elective bodies are closed to non-tribal members unless they are on official business with the tribe or are otherwise invited to attend by the respective body.” A.S.T. Const. art. 16 § 5.

General Council meetings require 15 days’ notice to members. Executive Committee meetings require five days’ notice to officers. A.S.T. Const. art. 16 §1, §3.

General Council meetings require a 50-member quorum, while Executive Committee, Tribal Court, Appeals Court, and Election Commission meetings require a three-officer quorum. A.S.T. Const. art. 17.

Other: The tribe has a criminal defamation statute. The law defines defamation as (1) communication with knowledge and malicious intent, (2) “to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation, or publish the natural defects,” of (3) someone alive or someone dead or missing within the past 20 years. “An injurious publication is presumed to have been malicious if no justifiable motive for making it is shown by way of defense.” A.S.T. Crim. Law Code § 564(a).

Punishments for defamation include fines of no more than $250 and imprisonment for no more than three months. “However, it shall be a defense to criminal defamation that the person making the publication was at the time engaged in the formal broadcast or publication of news by some public news media of communication and in good faith believed he was reporting a newsworthy event concerning a public figure with a basis in truth.” A.S.T. Crim. Law Code § 564(b).

Libel and slander claims each have a one-year statute of limitations. A.S.T. Civ. Proc. Code § 1004. They are the only tort claims that cannot be brought as small claims. A.S.T. Civ. Proc. Code § 1601(a).

The tribe’s provisions for privacy violations include a consent law for recording. A.S.T. Crim. Law Code § 563. It is unlawful, except as authorized by law, to (1) trespass on property with intent to subject anyone to eavesdropping or other surveillance in a private place; or (2) install in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there, any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds or events in such place, or use any such unauthorized installation; or (3) install or use outside of any private place any device for hearing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds originating in such place which would not ordinarily be audible or comprehensible outside, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there; or (4) divulge without the consent of the sender or receiver the existence or contents of any such message if the actor knows that the message was illegally intercepted, or if he learned of the message in the course of employment with an agency engaged in transmitting it. A.S.T. Crim. Law Code § 563(a). Punishments for violating the consent law include fines of no more than $250 and imprisonment for no more than three months. A.S.T. Crim. Law Code § 563(c).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Absentee Shawnee News, a government-affiliated newsletter.

Alabama Quassarte Tribal Town

Tribe’s website: https://www.alabama-quassarte.com

Open meetings: Meetings require a seven-member quorum. A.Q.T.T. Const. Bylaws art. 2.

Apache Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://apachetribe.org/about/

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. A.T. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Open meetings: Special meetings require at least 10 days’ notice. A.T. Const. art. 6 § 2. At all meetings, 50 tribal members and three tribal executives constitute a quorum. A.T. Const. art. 15.

Caddo Nation of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://mycaddonation.com

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. C.N. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. C.N. Const. art. 6 § 4.

Open meetings: Special meetings and changes in location for regular quarterly meetings both require 10 days’ notice to members. C.N. Bylaws art. 2 §§ 1, 4. Meetings require a 20-member quorum. C.N. Bylaws art. 2 § 3.

Cherokee Nation

Tribe’s website: https://www.cherokee.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. C.N. Const. art. 3 § 4.

Public records: According to the Cherokee Nation Code, “Any person has a right to inspect or copy any public record of a public body.” The government must respond to requests within 15 days, not including weekends and holidays, and is allowed to charge reasonable fees for records production. The code contains an extensive list of types of records that are exempt from the statute or have limited use. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 §§ 104-106. An online form is available to submit a request for public records. Since 2019, the Cherokee Nation has published yearly reports containing all public record requests and responses thereto.

The Cherokee Nation Code uses an extensive definition of “public record,” noting, “it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner.” 67 C.N.C.A. 2 §§ 101-103.

Any Cherokee Nation citizen may apply to the District Court of Cherokee Nation for a declaratory judgment and/or injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of the Cherokee Nation Code that relate to Chapter Two of Title 67 (“Freedom of Information and Rights to Privacy”), including public records. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 111(A). An application must be made no later than one year following the date of the alleged violation or one year after a public vote in public session, whichever comes later. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 111(A). If a person seeking such relief prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation (or a portion thereof if such person prevails in part). 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 111(B).

Any person who willfully and maliciously violates the provisions of Chapter Two of Title 67 of the Cherokee Nation Code (“Freedom of Information and Rights to Privacy”) may be found guilty of a crime and fined not more than $100 or imprisoned for up to 30 days; subsequent offenses carry enhanced penalties. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 112.

The tribal code also creates the Archives and Records Commission, which establishes and manages record storage. It also establishes an official repository, the Cherokee National Archives. 67 C.N.C.A. 1 §§ 1-9.

Additionally, the government is required to maintain a public records system for publishing laws and court opinions to tribal membership. “The text of all laws, resolutions, judicial opinions and orders, except otherwise protected by law, and all other governmental publications, except those by Nation-owned entities, shall be in the public domain and free from encumbrances against use by the Citizens. This shall not constrain the Nation from copyrighting other aspects of governmental publications, except that citizens shall always have license for personal use of the copyrighted work without notice or fee.” C.N. Const. art. 6 § 11.

Open meetings: Meetings of the Council of the Cherokee Nation (the legislative body of the Cherokee Nation) and its committees are open to the public except those that concern certain personnel matters, the “moral turpitude of any citizen,” or if the “decorum of the audience” prejudices the orderly administration of business. If consideration of a subject takes place in executive session, any votes must take place in an open meeting. C.N. Const. art. 5 § 6. Notice of special meetings must be published not less than ten days prior to the meeting and must include the purpose(s) of the special meeting. C.N. Const. art. 5 § 5.

Further, meetings of public bodies — any Cherokee Nation board, commission, agency, authority, public or governmental body or political subdivision of the Nation — are required to be open unless they are closed for a purpose provided for by law such as investigative proceedings regarding allegations of criminal misconduct. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 §§ 103, 107-108(A). Public bodies may only enter executive session at a meeting for a “specific purpose” as allowed by law and no action may be taken in executive session except to adjourn or return to the public session. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 108(B). Written public notice is required for both regular and special meetings of public bodies; agendas must be provided at least 10 days prior to any regular meeting and 24 hours prior to any special meeting. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 109. Minutes of meetings are considered public records and are required to be made available within a reasonable time after a meeting. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 110.

Any Cherokee Nation citizen may apply to the District Court of Cherokee Nation for a declaratory judgment and/or injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of the Cherokee Nation Code that relate to Chapter Two of Title 67 (“Freedom of Information and Rights to Privacy”), including open meetings. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 111(A). An application must be made no later than one year following the date of the alleged violation or one year after a public vote in public session, whichever comes later. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 111(A). If a person seeking such relief prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation (or a portion thereof if such person prevails in part). 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 111(B).

Any person who willfully and maliciously violates the provisions of Chapter Two of Title 67 of the Cherokee Nation Code (“Freedom of Information and Rights to Privacy”) may be found guilty of a crime and fined not more than $100 or imprisoned for up to 30 days; subsequent offenses carry enhanced penalties. 67 C.N.C.A. 2 § 112.

Other: The code also creates a shield law protecting journalists from being forced to disclose sources and unpublished information. 44 C.N.C.A. 2 §§ 21-24. However, the shield law “does not apply with respect to the content or source of allegedly defamatory information, in a civil action for defamation wherin the defendant asserts a defense based on the content or source of such information.” 44 C.N.C.A. 2 § 24.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper with an independent editorial policy.

The tribe also produces Anadisgoi Magazine and the Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds radio program.

The tribal code provides for an independent press and establishes tribal publications. “It is imperative to have measures in place to ensure the freedom of the press and to ensure the tribal publications have the independence to report objectively.” 44 C.N.C.A. 1 § 2.

The code also creates an editorial board with five members, at least three of whom must have journalism experience and follow Society of Professional Journalists and Native American Journalists Association ethics codes. The board members cannot be involved in any tribal politics other than voting, and they can be removed only by the tribal Supreme Court for cause. However, the board members are appointed and confirmed by the tribal government. 44 C.N.C.A. 1 §§ 1-8.

Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://cheyenneandarapaho-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. C.A.T. Const. art. 1 § 1(b).

Public records: The tribal constitution allows members of the public to inspect or obtain copies of records for a “reasonable fee.” It establishes the type of records the tribe must maintain and requires the tribe to develop systems for accessing and indexing the records. C.A.T. Const. art. 7 § 1(d).

All decisions, opinions, and orders by the tribal Supreme Court must be written and published. C.A.T. Const. art. 8 § 6(e).

Open meetings: Council meetings require at least 15 days’ notice. C.A.T. Const. art. 5 § 3(c). Meetings require a 75-member quorum. C.A.T. Const. art. 5 § 4(a).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes a newspaper, the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune. The tribe also has radio and TV stations.

The Chickasaw Nation

Tribe’s website: https://www.chickasaw.net

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. C.N. Const. art. 4 § 4.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. C.N. Const. art. 7 § 3.

Open meetings: All meetings are open to tribal members. C.N. Const. art. 8 § 4. Meetings require a nine-member quorum. C.N. Const. art. 8 § 2. Meeting agendas must be released to the public at least two days in advance. 16 C.N.C. 2 § 1(B)(2).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Chickasaw Times, a newspaper with an independent editorial policy. “The Times shall be fair, impartial and inform the Chickasaw public of tribal goals, operations, procedures, services and emphasizing the accomplishments and opinions of all Chickasaw citizens. No person or collection of persons shall be allowed to dominate the Times in any form or fashion.” 2 C.N.C. 9 § 4(B). The tribal newspaper is governed by 2 C.N.C. 9 §§ 1–4. However, the newspaper is funded with government dollars and is required to give space to government officials. See 2 C.N.C. 9 §§ 1(B)(2), 4(A)(3), 4(D)(7).

The tribe also has radio and TV stations.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.choctawnation.com

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes the right of members to speak, write, or publish opinions on matters relating to the Choctaw Nation. C.N. Const. art. 4 § 3.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. C.N. Const. art. 9 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings are open to tribal members and require an eight-member quorum. Special meetings require at least one days’ notice. Meetings can be held in private session, but only with a public two-thirds vote by council leaders. Members cannot address the tribal council without approval of the majority of council leaders present. C.N. Const. art. 10 §§ 2–4.

Notice of court sessions is required, and sessions are open to the public. C.N. Act to Establish a Ct. of Gen. Jurisdiction, art. 1 § 114(A).

Other: The tribal code contains substantial libel and slander provisions: “Libel is a false or malicious unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, or effigy or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to public hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy, or which tends to deprive him of public confidence, or to injure him in his occupation, or any malicious publication as aforesaid, designed to blacken or vilify the memory of one who is dead, and tending to scandalize his surviving relatives or friends.” C.N. Crim. Code § 771.

Malice is “presumed” for non-privileged publications unless facts and testimony show otherwise. C.N. Crim. Code §§ 772, 774. Penalty for actual or threatened libel can be up to one year imprisonment or $1,000 fine. C.N. Crim. Code §§ 773, 777.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Biskinik, a government newsletter.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.potawatomi.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. C.P.N. Const. art. 16 § 1(a).

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. C.P.N. Const. art. 6 § 4.

Open meetings: Meetings appear to be open to tribal members. “The purpose of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Indian Council meetings shall be to give information . . . to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.” C.P.N. Const. art. 13 § 1.

Meetings require 10 days’ notice. C.P.N. Const. art. 13 § 5. Nine members of the tribal legislature and five percent of the tribal membership are required for quorum. C.P.N. Const. art. 17 §§1–2.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Hownikan, a government newsletter.

Comanche Nation, Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://comanchenation.com

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. C.N. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can view government records without paying charges or fees. C.N. Const. art. 10 § 4. Court records are generally public. 1 C.N.C. 2 § 12(D).

Open meetings: Meetings require 10-14 days’ notice. C.N. Const. art. 5 § 4. Meetings require a 150-member quorum. C.N. Const. art. 5 § 5.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Comanche Nation News, a government newsletter.

Delaware Nation

Tribe’s website: https://www.delawarenation-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. D.N. Const. art. 12 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can view government records. D.N. Const. art. 14 §§ 3–4. The tribe’s election ordinance also makes candidate records public. D.N. Election Ordinace § 401(J).

Open meetings: Meetings require 10 days’ notice. D.N. Const. art. 8 § 1. Meetings require a 20-member quorum. D.N. Const. art. 15 § 3.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Delaware Nation Newspaper, a government newsletter.

Delaware Tribe of Indians

Tribe’s website: https://delawaretribe.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes freedom to write in its bill of rights. D.T.I. Const. art. 3 § 1.

Open meetings: Meetings are open to tribal members, who can participate with the Chief’s permission. D.T.I. Bylaws art. 2 § 4(A). The tribe’s annual meeting requires 30-45 days’ notice to members, and special meetings require five days’ notice to council leaders. D.T.I. Const. art. 11 § 1; D.T.I. Bylaws art. 2 § 3. Meetings require a 100-member quorum. D.T.I. Const. art. 11 § 3.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Delaware Indian News, or Lënapeí Pampil, the “official publication of the Delaware Tribe of Indians.”

Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://estoo-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. E.S.T. Const. art. 5(a).

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. E.S.T. Const. art. 8 § 3.

The tribe also has an extensive public records ordinance, which states that the tribe generally allows members to view and copy records except when doing so would disturb government operation or create confidentiality issues. The ordinance delineates procedures for accessing and copying records. It also provides a list of records that are exempt from disclosure. E.S.T. Pub. Rec. Ordinance.

The ordinance also addresses the limited rights of non-members: “Non-members have an interest in tribal documents and records only as required by law, or as determined by tribal officials to be consistent with the interest of the tribe.”

Open meetings: Special meetings require 10 days’ notice, and meetings require a 30-member quorum. E.S.T. Const. art. 16 §§1–2.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Shooting Star, a government newsletter.

Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://fortsillapache-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. F.S.A.T. Const. art. 8 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. F.S.A.T. Const. art. 10 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings are open to all tribal members as well as “other persons invited by the business committee.” F.S.A.T. Const. art. 11 § 3. Special meetings require seven days’ notice, and all meetings require a 10-member quorum. F.S.A.T. Const. art. 11 §§ 2, 5.

Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.bahkhoje.com

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. I.T. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. If the government refuses to provide access to the records, members can ask the tribe’s grievance body to enforce their rights. I.T. Const. art. 11 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings require 10 days’ notice. I.T. Const. art. 6 §§ 1-2, 5. General meetings require a 20-member quorum, while smaller committee meetings require only two or three elected leaders to establish quorum. I.T. Const. art. 13.

Tribal media: The tribe published the Bah Koh-Je Journal, a government newsletter, as recently as December 2016.

Kaw Nation, Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://kawnation.com

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. K.N. Const. art. 2 § 1(A).

Public records: The tribal constitution includes records access in its bill of rights. Tribal members can access government records unless such records are declared confidential through legislation. K.N. Const. art. 2 § 3; K.N. Const. art. 6 § 4(C). Tribal leaders’ voting records are public. K.N. Const. art. 5 § 1(H).

Tampering with records is punishable by fine up to $5,000, imprisonment up to one year, and/or banishment for not less than one year nor more than five years; or upon a subsequent conviction, banishment for not less than five years nor more than ten years. 7 K.N.C. 1 §139; 7 K.N.C. 4 § 412.

Open meetings: Special meetings require 10 days’ notice; quarterly meetings are set for fixed dates but may be rescheduled with 30 days’ notice. K.N. Const. art. 4 §§ 2(C)–(D). Meetings require a 25-member quorum. K.N. Const. art. 4 § 2(A).

Other: The tribe has a criminal defamation statute[1] that defines defamation as (1) communication with malicious and knowing intent, of information that (2) “tends to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation, or publish the natural defects,” of (3) a person who is alive or has been missing or dead for less than 20 years. 7 K.N.C. 5 § 564(a).

Malice is “presumed” unless a “justifiable motive” shows otherwise. Defamation is punishable by up to $500 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment. “However, it shall be a defense to criminal defamation that the person making the publication was at the time engaged in the formal broadcast or publication of news by some public news media of communication and in good faith believed he was reporting a newsworthy event concerning a public figure with basis in truth.” 7 K.N.C. 5 § 564(b).

The tribe’s privacy statute requires consent for recording. 7 K.N.C. 5 § 563. It is unlawful, except as authorized by law, to (1) trespass on property with intent to subject anyone to eavesdropping or other surveillance in a private place; or (2) install in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there, any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds or events in such place, or use any such unauthorized installation; or (3) install or use outside of any private place any device for hearing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds originating in such place which would not ordinarily be audible or comprehensible outside, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there; or (4) divulge without the consent of the sender or receiver the existence or contents of any such message if the actor knows that the message was illegally intercepted, or if he learned of the message in the course of employment with an agency engaged in transmitting it. 7 K.N.C. 5 § 563(a). Punishments for violating the consent law include fines of no more than $250 and imprisonment for no more than six months. 7 K.N.C. 5 § 563(c).

The tribe’s subpoena statute includes an exception for “adequate excuse” but does not specifically shield journalists. 8 K.N.C. 2 § 213(c).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Kanza News, a government newsletter. “Published quarterly, the Kanza News is the Kaw Nation’s official newspaper. It is the primary medium of news and information collection and dissemination for tribal activities, educational and business opportunities. … The newsletter informs the people, giving them important messages and calling them together for meetings, ceremonies, and tribal events.”

[1] § 564(a) of the criminal defamation statute states, “It shall be lawful to knowingly and with malicious intent communicate to any person orally or in writing any information which one knows or should know to be false and knowingly that the information tends to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation, or publish the natural defects of one who is alive, or who has not been declared missing or dead for a period exceeding twenty years, and thereby expose him to public hatred, contempt or ridicule. An injurious publication is presumed to have been malicious if no justifiable motive for making it is shown by way of defense.” The use of “lawful” at the beginning of the paragraph is likely a scrivener’s error as the statute is titled “Criminal Defamation,” defines elements of the offense, sets out a range of punishment, and provides a possible defense.

Kialegee Tribal Town

Tribe’s website: https://kialegeetribal.webstarts.com

Press freedom: The tribe’s constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. K.T.T. Const. art. 9 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government documents in the presence of the secretary upon order by the tribe’s grievance body. K.T.T. Bylaws art. 1 § 4.

Open meetings: Meetings require a seven-leader quorum. K.T.T. Bylaws art. 5.

Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.kickapootribeofoklahoma.com/home

Press freedom: The tribe’s constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. K.T. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government documents in the presence of the secretary upon order by the tribe’s grievance body. K.T. Bylaws art. 1 § 3.

Court records are generally open to the public, with the exception of juvenile records. Juvenile court proceedings are also not public hearings. K.T. Judicial Sys. Ordinance Ch. 2 § 11.

Cameras and recording devices are not allowed in the tribal courtroom. K.T. Courtroom Rules.

The tribe provides a form for the public to request court records. Requests for copies of records are subject to nominal fees.

Open meetings: Meetings require a 25 member or three-leader quorum. K.T. Bylaws art. 6 §§1–2.

Other: The tribe has a dedicated libel and slander statute. According to the statute, libel involves “a false or malicious unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, sign, or effigy or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to public hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy, or which tends to deprive that person of public confidence, or to injure that person in that person’s occupation, or any malicious publication as aforesaid, designed to blacken or vilify the memory of one who is dead, and tending to scandalize that person’s surviving relatives or friends.” K.T. Libel and Slander Ordinance § 101.

Truth alone is not a defense to libel. Defenses include evidence that disproves the charges or evidence that the alleged libel was both true and privileged. However, if the alleged libel is published in the media with good faith, a jury or judge can consider whether the factual dispute was an “honest mistake.” K.T. Libel and Slander Ordinance § 104.

Privileged communications can occur during official meetings, judicial proceedings, or other official duties. Publications in these settings are not subject to libel penalties. K.T. Libel and Slander Ordinance § 105.

Candidates for elected office have a limited privileged communications privilege. Disputes under this privilege are also left to a jury or judge but are analyzed considering the office sought, and the nature and setting of the alleged libel. K.T. Libel and Slander Ordinance § 106.

Libel and slander cases abate if the defendant dies. K.T. R. Civ. Pro. § 310(a)(3).

The tribe provides a separate civil complaint form for libel and slander matters.

Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://kiowatribe.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom and whistleblower protections in its bill of rights. K.I.T. Const. art. 1 §§ 1(b), (g).

Open meetings: Meetings require at least 15 days’ notice. Meetings also require a 150-member quorum. K.I.T. Const. art. 5 §§ 4(c), 5(a).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Kiowa News, a government newspaper.

Miami Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.miamination.com

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records by appointment in the presence of the secretary/treasurer. M.T. Bylaws art. 17 § 3. Tribal members can also request copies of tribal court documents by filling out a form and paying $0.50 per page as well as $13 in additional copy and mailing fees.

Open meetings: Special meetings require 10 days’ notice. M.T. Bylaws art. 19 § 2. Meetings require a 25-member quorum. M.T. Bylaws art. 22 § 1.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Atotankiki Myaamiaki, a government newspaper.

Modoc Nation

Tribe’s website: https://modocnation.com

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. If the government refuses to provide access to the records, members can ask the tribe’s judicial branch to enforce their rights. M.N. Const. art. 6 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings require 10 days’ notice. M.N. Const. art. 10. They also require a 10-member quorum. M.N. Const. art. 11.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Tribe’s website: https://www.muscogeenation.com

Press freedom: A year and a half after repealing its free press statute and asserting government control over Mvskoke Media, the tribe created the “Independent Muscogee (Creek) Press Act.”

“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Press, Mvskoke Media, shall be independent from any undue influence and free of any particular political interest. It is the duty of the press to report on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and its people without bias to have an informed citizenry.” 49 M.C.N.C.A. 1 § 1(A).

The statute includes a shield law, which provides that journalists and members of the Mvskoke Media Editorial Board do not have to disclose sources or unpublished information, with limited exceptions. 49 M.C.N.C.A. 1 § 11.

In 2021, citizens of Muscogee Nation approved an amendment to the tribal constitution ensuring that citizens must approve any future changes or repeal of the free press law. The tribal constitution now states, “The Muscogee Creek Nation shall have an Independent Press that shall be free from political interest or undue influence, harassment, censorship, control or restrictions from any department of the government of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in order to provide unbiased news and reports objectively to the Muscogee (Creek) citizens.” M.C.N. Const. art. 14 § 1.

Public records: The Muscogee Nation has a freedom of information law. Among other information, the statute identifies types of records that are public and types that are protected. 37 M.C.N.C.A. 20 § 017.

All government spending is public record. M.C.N. Const. art. 6 § 7(d).

Open meetings: Meetings are open to tribal members. 37 M.C.N.C.A. 5 § 101. Tribal leaders can take meetings to private executive session only after voting on whether to go to executive session in public. 37 M.C.N.C.A. 5 § 102.

Meetings require “reasonable public notice.” 37 M.C.N.C.A. 5 § 104. They also require a majority of elected officials to establish quorum. M.C.N. Const. art. 6 § 4(a).

“Mvskoke Media will not be removed from public forum meetings or censored in reporting those meetings consistent with executive and legislative operating procedures and policy, except by order of the Nation’s Courts.” 49 M.C.N.C.A. 1 § 3.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Mvskoke News, now an independent newspaper. It also maintains a radio station. “The Mvskoke News is an editorially independent and constitutionally protected publication. Its purpose is to meet the needs of the tribe and its citizens through the dissemination of information.”

Although it can receive and display political advertising, “Mvskoke Media broadcasts and publications shall not be considered an official capacity of Muscogee (Creek) Nation and shall not include the Muscogee (Creek) Nation official Seal on any materials.” Editorial staff must be free from all political activity other than voting and hosting candidate debates. 49 M.C.N.C.A. 1 §§ 2, 7.

The Independent Muscogee (Creek) Press Act includes a detailed description of the three-person Mvskoke Media Editorial Board, which has power over Mvskoke Media’s editorial policy. Two members are political appointees. Among the members, at least one must have tribal law experience, at least one must have an undergraduate or graduate degree in journalism or a related field, and two must have at least five years’ journalism experience. The board members are required to adhere to ethics codes established by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association. 49 M.C.N.C.A. 1 §§ 5–6.

The Mvskoke Media is guaranteed funding, subject to review by the tribal government. 49 M.C.N.C.A. 1 § 10.

The Osage Nation

Tribe’s website: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. O.N. Const. art. 4 §3(A).  The Osage Nation has enjoyed a free press since 2009, when its Supreme Court issued its first-ever ruling which included language that upheld the Osage Nation’s free press constitutional freedoms.  “[T]his Court does recognize that freedom of speech or the press is an inalienable right of the Osage people, not to be abridged or denied by any branch or department of the Osage Nation government or by any official of the government. This Court considers such rights to be necessary to maintain ‘a free, sovereign, and independent nation.’” Gray v. Mason, No. SPC-08-01, at 11 (Osage Dec. 11, 2009).

The Independent Press Act of 2008 provides for an independent newspaper and an editorial board. 15 O.N.C. 12 §§ 105–06. The statute includes a shield law, which provides that journalists do not have to disclose sources or unpublished information in court. However, the privilege does not apply to alleged defamatory content, criminal proceedings, or actions where a court finds “substantial Osage Nation interest.” 15 O.N.C. 12 § 112.

“The Osage Nation’s press shall be independent from any undue influence and free of any particular political interest. It is the duty of the press to report on the Osage Nation and its people without bias to have an informed citizenry.” 15 O.N.C. 12 § 104.

Public records: The tribe has a statute dedicated to open records. The statute identifies types of records that are public and types that are protected. 15 O.N.C. 8 §§ 103–104.

The statute spells out procedures for inspecting and requesting copies of records. The tribal government must respond to requests within 10 business days. The tribe can charge requesters for “reasonable costs” related to copying records, and the first 25 pages are free. 15 O.N.C. 8 § 107. If a request is denied, the government must state why, and the requester has up to six months to petition the Osage Nation Trial Court to force release. 15 O.N.C. 8 § 108.

Unlawful disclosure or destruction of records is punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. Government employees who refuse to release records when required by court, as well as anyone who obtains records through stealing or bribery, can face similar fines. However, the statute contains a defense for whistleblowers who release records unlawfully to expose government abuses of power. 15 O.N.C. 8 § 113(A)–(C).

Open meetings: The tribe has a statute dedicated to open meetings. “Meetings of public bodies” are open to members and the general public, although attendees may be asked to identify whether they are members. Meetings can be filmed or recorded. 15 O.N.C. 7 § 105; O.N. Const. art. 6 § 19.

Tribal leaders can meet in executive session only after the majority of members vote in public to allow the executive session. Executive session meetings are limited to a handful of sensitive topics such as personnel and legal issues. 15 O.N.C. 7 § 107.

Meetings require at least two days’ notice “unless an emergency requires shorter notice.” 15 O.N.C. 7 § 108.

“The Osage Nation is a representative government and is dependent upon an informed constituency. The Nation encourages citizens to exercise their privilege of attending and speaking at meetings of public bodies.” 15 O.N.C. 7 § 102.

Other: The tribe has a criminal defamation statute. The statute defines defamation as (1) communication with malicious and knowing intent, of information that (2) “tends to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation, or publish the natural defects,” of (3) a person who is alive or has been missing or dead for less than 20 years. Malice is “presumed” unless a “justifiable motive” shows otherwise. 6 O.N.C. 5 § 164(A).

Defamation is punishable by up to $250 and/or up to three months’ imprisonment. “However, it shall be a defense to criminal defamation that the person making the publication was at the time engaged in the formal broadcast or publication of news by some public news media of communication and in good faith believed he was reporting a newsworthy event concerning a public figure with basis in truth.” 6 O.N.C. 5 § 164(B).

The tribe’s privacy statute requires consent for recording. 6 O.N.C. 5 § 163. It is unlawful, except as authorized by law, to (1) trespass on property with intent to subject anyone to eavesdropping or other surveillance in a private place; or (2) install in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there, any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds or events in such place, or use any such unauthorized installation; or (3) install or use outside of any private place any device for hearing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds originating in such place which would not ordinarily be audible or comprehensible outside, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there; or (4) divulge without the consent of the sender or receiver the existence or contents of any such message if the actor knows that the message was illegally intercepted, or if he learned of the message in the course of employment with an agency engaged in transmitting it. 6 O.N.C. 5 § 163(A). Punishments for violating the consent law include fines of no more than $250 and imprisonment for no more than three months. 6 O.N.C. 5 § 163(C).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes the Osage News, a fully independent newspaper. The paper has detailed policies about sourcing and gifts.

“As an independent news organization, we strive to report news and information with fairness and balance. While being the official news organization of the Osage Nation, we base our news judgements on our loyalties to our readers and Osage citizens, and we are not directly beholden to the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branches of the Osage Nation. … The Osage News seeks to cover news in all its complexity.”

The press statute includes a detailed description of the three-person Osage News Editorial Board, which oversees the newspaper’s editorial policy. Two members are political appointees. The political appointees must be 25, have professional newsroom experience, be able to maintain neutrality toward subjects, and adhere to ethics codes set by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association. The third, at-large member, is appointed by the two political members. The at-large member must either have an undergraduate degree in journalism, law, government, or business, have five years’ journalism experience, or have served three years in public office.  15 O.N.C. 12 § 106.

The press statute prevents the Osage News from using the same brand and operating in the same building as the government. 15 O.N.C. 12 §§ 110–11. However, the newspaper’s budget is funded and subject to review by the tribal government. 15 O.N.C. 12 § 109.

Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.omtribe.org

Open meetings: General meetings require a 100-member quorum, while meetings of tribal leaders require a five-leader quorum. O.M.T.I. Const. art. 11 §§ 1(a), 2(a). Special general meetings and leadership meetings require at least 10 and three days’ notice, respectively. O.M.T.I. art. 11 § 1(c), 2(c).

Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: http://www.ottawatribe.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. O.T. Const. art. 11 §§ 1, 4(a).

Public records: Tribal members can access government records upon request and in the presence of the secretary-treasurer. If the government refuses to provide access to the records, members can ask the tribe’s grievance body to enforce their rights. O.T. Bylaws art. 1 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings require at least 10 days’ notice. O.T. Bylaws art. 2 § 1. Meetings require a 20-member quorum and a three-leader quorum. O.T. Bylaws art. 3.

Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://pawneenation.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. P.N. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. P.N. Const. art. 5 § 3(iii).

Open meetings: All meetings require at least two days’ notice. P.N. Const. art. 4 § 6(ii)(b). Meetings typically require a five-leader quorum. P.N. Const. art. 4 § 5.

Other: The tribe has a criminal defamation statute. P.N. Law & Order Code § 564. The law defines defamation as a (1) communication (either orally or in writing) with knowledge and malicious intent, (2) “to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation, or publish the natural defects,” of (3) someone alive or someone dead or missing within the past 20 years, (4) thereby exposing the person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule. P.N. Law & Order Code § 564(a). “An injurious publication is presumed to have been malicious if no justifiable motive for making it is shown by way of defense.” P.N. Law & Order Code § 564(a).

Punishments for defamation include fines of no more than $250 and imprisonment for no more than three months. “However, it shall be a defense to criminal defamation that the person making the publication was at the time engaged in the formal broadcast or publication of news by some public news media of communication and in good faith believed he was reporting a newsworthy event concerning a public figure with a basis in truth.” P.N. Law & Order Code § 564(b).

Libel and slander claims each have a one-year statute of limitations. P.N. Civ. Proc. Code § 1004(d). They are the only tort claims that cannot be brought as small claims. P.N. Civ. Proc. Code § 1601(a).

For elected leaders, conviction of libel “in any legitimate governmental jurisdiction” is cause for removal from the governing body. P.N. Const. art. 7 § 4(iv)(a)(E)(15).

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Chaticks si Chaticks, a government newsletter.

Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://peoriatribe.com

Public records: The Peoria Council, which consists of all tribal members who are at least 18 years of age, can inspect government records. P.T.I. Const. art. 6 § 3(e).

Open meetings: All meetings require 10 days’ notice. P.T.I. Const. art. 14 § 3. General meetings require a 25-member quorum. P.T.I. Const. art. 15 § 2.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Eehisi Iiyaayankwi, a government newsletter.

Quapaw Nation

Tribe’s website: https://www.quapawtribe.com

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records in the presence of the secretary-treasurer. Q.N. Governing Res. § 9.

Open meetings: Meetings require a four-leader quorum and “proper notice.” Q.N. Governing Res. §§ 1(b), 11.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Ogahpah Igazozo, a government newsletter.

Sac & Fox Nation, Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.sacandfoxnation-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. S.F.N. Const. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records in the presence of the secretary. S.F.N. Const. art. 3 § 1(c).

Open meetings: Meetings require five to 10 days’ notice. S.F.N. Const. art. 8 §§ 2(a), 3(a). Meetings require a 60-member and three-leader quorum. S.F.N. Const. art. 9.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Sac & Fox News, a government newsletter.

The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.sno-nsn.gov

Public records: Government spending is public record. S.N.O Const. art. 5 § (e).

The tribe’s appellate procedure code establishes rules for press access to court proceedings. Limitations can include directives for press to clear entrances and hallways, preventing press from being within the bar railing, and limiting press to a specific number of allocated seats. No photography, video, or other taping is permitted in the courtroom, with a few exceptions. 1 S.N.C. Rule 106(h)–(i).

“In a widely publicized or sensational civil or criminal case, the Court, on motion of either party or on its own motion, may issue a special order governing such matters as … the seating and conduct in the courtroom of spectators and news media representatives …” 1 S.N.C. R. 106(h).

Open meetings: Meetings are open to tribal members. 16 S.N.C. 8 R. 2.7. Meetings require at least 10 days’ notice except in emergencies. S.N. Const. art. 6 § 1; 16 S.N.C. 8 R. 2.6. A 15-member quorum is required. 16 S.N.C. 8 R. 2.8.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Cokv Tvlvme, a government newsletter. It also has a radio station.

Seneca-Cayuga Nation

Tribe’s website: http://sctribe.com

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records in the presence of the secretary-treasurer. S.C.N. Bylaws art. 1 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings require a 225-member and four-leader quorum. S.C.N. Bylaws art. 4.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Gah-Yah-Tont, a government newsletter.

Shawnee Tribe

Tribe’s website: https://www.shawnee-nsn.gov

Public records: Tribal members can access government records. S.T. Const. art. 8 § C.

Requests for tribal citizenship records must be in writing, with limited exceptions. 2 S.T.C. 20 § 30(A). Government recommendations to disenroll citizens are not public. 2 S.T.C. 12 § 60(A). Compiled statistical data about members, such as addresses, and member and citizenship applicant files are not public. 2 S.T.C. 20 § 30(C).

Court records are generally public, except as otherwise provided by law. 14 S.T.C. 8 § 130(D). For a nominal fee, “any persons” can obtain copies of court records; otherwise, inspection is limited to the court clerk’s office during business hours. 14 S.T.C. 8 § 140.

Open meetings: General meetings require 20 days’ notice, and meetings of elected leaders require one days’ notice. S.T. Const. art. 9 §§ A, D. General meetings require a 25-member quorum, and meetings of elected leaders require a six-leader quorum. S.T. Const. art. 11.

Thlopthlocco Tribal Town

Tribe’s website: https://www.tttown.org

Press freedom: As originally adopted, the tribal constitution includes press freedom. T.T.T. Const. art. 7 § 1.

Tonkawa Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: http://www.tonkawatribe.com

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. T.T.I. Const. art. 9 § 1.

Public records: Tribal council members (all members of the Tonkawa Tribe 18 years of age or older) can inspect government records in the presence of the secretary-treasurer. T.T.I. Bylaws art. 1 § 3.

Open meetings: Special meetings require at least five days’ notice. T.T.I. Bylaws art. 3 § 2. Meetings require a 20-member and two-leader quorum. T.T.I. Bylaws art. 4.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes a government newsletter.

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://www.ukb-nsn.gov

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. U.K.B.C.I.O Const. art. 11 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records in the presence of the secretary. U.K.B.C.I. Bylaws art. 1 § 3.

Open meetings: Meetings require at least 10 days’ notice. U.K.B.C.I. Bylaws art. 3 § 4. Meetings require a seven-member quorum. U.K.B.C.I. Bylaws art. 4.

Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi, Waco & Tawakonie), Oklahoma

Tribe’s website: https://wichitatribe.com

Press freedom: The tribal governing resolution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. W.A.T. Governing Res. art. 10 § 1.

Public records: Tribal members can inspect government records. W.A.T. Governing Res. art. 12 § 3.

Open meetings: Special meetings require at least 10 days’ notice. W.A.T. Governing Res. art. 6 § 2. Meetings require a 15-member and four-leader quorum. W.A.T. Governing Res. art. 15.

Tribal media: The tribe publishes Wichita Tribal News, a government newsletter.

Wyandotte Nation

Tribe’s website: https://wyandotte-nation.org

Press freedom: The tribal constitution includes press freedom in its bill of rights. W.N. Const. art. 11 § 1.

Public records: All court records are public records except as otherwise provided by law. 4 W.N.C. 1 § 113(d). For a “reasonable copy fee,” “any persons” can obtain copies of court records; otherwise, inspection is limited to the court clerk’s office during business hours. 4 W.N.C. 1 § 114.

Tribal citizenship records are confidential. W.N. Enrollment Ordinance § 6(B).

The tribe’s appellate procedure code establishes rules for press access to court proceedings. Limitations can include directives for press to clear entrances and hallways, preventing press from being within the bar railing, and limiting press to a specific number of allocated seats. No photography, video, or other taping is permitted in the courtroom, with a few exceptions. 1 W.N.C. R. 105(h)–(i).

“In a widely publicized or sensational civil or criminal case, the Court, on motion of either party or on its own motion, may issue a special order governing such matters as … the seating and conduct in the courtroom of spectators and news media representatives …” 1 W.N.C. R. 105(h).

Open meetings: Meetings require at least three days’ notice. W.N. Const. art. 8 § 4. General meetings require a 50-member quorum; meetings of tribal leadership require a three- or four-leader quorum. W.N. Const. art. 8 § 5.

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