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Cherokee Nation passes FOI Act

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - In a landmark effort, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted unanimously to open the Cherokee Nation's financial records to the public.

The vote during the July council meeting will cement the Cherokee Nation's current policy.

Principal Chief Chad Smith had promised tribal members during his campaign that the newspaper and financial records would be open to the public and said he sees this act as completing the promise he made earlier.

"In our campaign, Hastings Shade and I promised the Cherokee people access to information about how their government is being run, including our financial records and audit reports," Smith said. "Our records have been open throughout this administration but only through council action could this policy become a law, binding on all future administrations.

"I commend the council for passing a law that ensures the Cherokee people will have access to public records regardless of who they elect to office in the future."

Council member Barbara Starr-Scott agreed with Smith. She presented the measure to the council saying, "Anything the council or our government does should be open to the public."

The law is patterned after similar state and federal laws, but protects the privacy of individual Cherokee Nation members.

Since Smith's administration took office, he has made it a policy to ensure that tribal members have access to everything that goes on in the Cherokee headquarters. He was instrumental in getting a freedom of the press law passed by the council that ensures the tribal newspaper gets no interference from tribal government, thus preventing the censorship that sometimes troubles other tribally owned newspapers.