Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council amends numerous ordinances

10.09.2019 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Amendments to ordinances that regulate the Tribe’s committees and special event boards, public records and independent Tribal press were approved by Tribal Council during its Wednesday, Oct. 9, meeting.

The amendments will go into effect in 21 days.

Amendments to the General Committee and Special Event Board Ordinance have been in the works since March and received much input from Tribal members and Tribal Council members, said Tribal Staff Attorney Brooks Wakeland during the Tuesday, Oct. 8, Legislative Action Committee meeting.

The amendments call for committees and special event boards to meet at least quarterly; attend annual meetings with Tribal Council; provide a written annual summary of activities; have between five to seven voting members; allow the existence of honorary members; and allow members to cast votes remotely by either phone or video conferencing. A code of conduct also remains in the amended ordinance.

Amendments to the Independent Tribal Press Ordinance, which was first adopted in December 2016, provide employment protection for Tribal journalists who accurately report Tribal news. “No Smoke Signals journalist may be fired or suspended solely because of the content of his or her reporting,” the amended ordinance states.

The amendments also clarify that the Tribal Attorney’s Office will represent Smoke Signals employees should they ever be sued for their reporting.

Amendments to the Public Records Ordinance also bolster the Tribe’s independent press, which is one of only four in the United States. The amendments give Smoke Signals staff, when acting in their official capacity, the same access to Tribal records as Tribal members. Before being amended, the Public Records Ordinance only granted access to “enrolled Tribal members.”

Only one set of comments was received regarding the amendments to the Independent Tribal Press and Public Records ordinances and it came from the five-member Grand Ronde Editorial Board in unanimous support of the amendments. The Editorial Board, appointed by Tribal Council, oversees the editor of Smoke Signals and is charged with ensuring the newspaper is free from undue political influence while reporting Tribal news.

“The Editorial Board feels it is essential to provide protection to Tribal news media employees who are reporting accurate information about the Tribe and its government,” states the Editorial Board comments. “We have seen elsewhere in Indian Country how Native journalists have been forced to resign their jobs or been fired because of political fallout from accurate and factual reporting of Tribal news. We hope this travesty never occurs in Grand Ronde. Factual reporting should be the ultimate shield for a reporter or editor to keep their jobs.”

Regarding amendments to the Public Records Ordinance, the Editorial Board said that Tribal media employees could be technically prohibited from obtaining public records from the Tribe because they are not enrolled Tribal members.

“This has the potential of severely limiting the ability of the independent Tribal press from doing its job about informing the membership about its Tribal government’s past, present and future actions,” the Editorial Board stated.

In other action, Tribal Council:

  • Held first readings on amendments to the Elders’ Retirement and SSI Program Ordinance and a draft of a new General Welfare Ordinance. The amendments make benefits under the Elders’ and SSI programs available on a tax-free basis and the new ordinance affirms the Tribe’s inherent sovereign right to promote the general welfare of the Tribe and provide qualifying assistance and program benefits on a tax-free basis to the fullest extent permitted by law. Both will be advertised in Smoke Signals to allow for member comments before returning to Tribal Council for possible adoption;
  • Approved the 2020 Indian Housing Plan that must be submitted annually to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Office of Native American Programs;
  • Approved the enrollment of 19 noninfants and five infants into the Tribe because they meet the enrollment requirements outlined in the Enrollment Ordinance and Tribal Constitution, and denied enrollment to one infant for not meeting those requirements.

The entire meeting can be viewed by visiting the Tribal government’s website at, clicking on the Government icon and then Videos.