Freedom of Information Module

An FOI module for access to information in Indian Country

All of the time, we hear the same complaint: It’s SO hard to get public records when you do journalism about American Indians and Alaska Natives.

It is, and it isn’t.  You just have to know how to do it.  NAJA can teach you!

The NAJA Legal Resource Room is a great place for NAJA members and others to gather and share information about what works for them.  The NAJA Free Press Committee – chair Shannon Shaw Duty (Osage), Bryan Pollard (Cherokee), Benny Polacca (Hopi/Havasupai/Pima/Tohono O'odham), Christina Good Voice (Muscogee (Creek)), and Kevin R. Kemper (Choctaw/Cherokee) – is in the process of putting together resources for NAJA members to educate everyone about freedoms of press and information in Indian Country.

This Freedom of Information (FOI) Module provides some articles to start the conversations about access – how to get it, how to respect it, etc.

Matthew Kelley (Ojibwe) is an up-and-coming media attorney with Levine, Sullivan, Koch, & Schulz, a top firm in Washington, D.C.  He has written a serious and clear primer about making requests of the federal government through the Freedom of Information Act. 

This three-part primer answers many general questions – and it gives you an idea about the kind of advice he can provide through the NAJA Legal Hotline.

Kevin R. Kemper (Choctaw/Cherokee) is the intake liaison for the NAJA Legal Hotline, a member of the NAJA committees for free press and education, and a research fellow for NAJA.  As a former journalist and journalism educator, he has reworked his teachings into an article with tips about making state and local records requests as they relate to Indian Country.

The most important information should be written by you as NAJA members.  Kemper has provided the beginning of an article about access to tribal records, but we need your help.  We know that the Osage and Cherokee Nations in Oklahoma have passed FOI laws that are enforceable and helpful. 

We ask that members send other examples with links to legalhotline@naja.com to share what works (or not) across Indian Country.

There have been some important contributions to this discussion over the years, but we feel that having discussions among NAJA members would be an informative and collaborative way to build this FOI module. 

If you would like to write an article about a particular FOI topic, please e-mail legalhotline@naja.com.  

Thank you for your help as we talk about the best ways to practice access to information in Indian Country.

NOTE: Nothing in this module or on this website should be construed to be legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship.  If you are a NAJA member without an attorney who needs legal help, contact the NAJA Legal Hotline at legalhotline@naja.com or 1-405-872-6107