(MUSCOGEE NATION) For the first time in history, a Native American tribe has made free press part of their constitution.
Muscogee Nation citizens voted in favor of the constitutional amendment on Saturday, September 18. The unofficial election results showed 1,914 (76.25 percent) voting “yes” for the amendment and 596 (23.75 percent) voting “no” for the amendment.
Mvskoke Media Director Angel Ellis told VNN the move supports the overall arch of a stronger sovereignty because it is powered by the voice of the people.
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“Voters made a clear mandate, they want a transparent government, they value the role journalism plays in the exercise of sovereignty, and they wanted it enshrined in their highest doctrines of law,” Ellis said.
The media outlet has been striving for constitutionally guaranteed free press since the nation’s repeal of their free press law in 2018.
It was around the time McGirt vs. Oklahoma was making its way through the Supreme Court, and one of Mvskoke Media’s stories was used in an argument against the tribe.
Ellis said they were censored within 24 hours of the repeal.
The new amendment guarantees “The Muscogee Creek Nation shall have an Independent Press that shall be free from political interest or undue influences, 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.”
“I sincerely hope the work done in our community catches on in every one of the Indigenous Nations in this country and that we grab hold of roots by writing our own stories,” Ellis said.
The 2,510 votes cast for the constitutional amendment question made it the most voted on item on the ballot, but represent just under 14 percent of the nation’s 17,965 registered voters, and just over 3 percent of the 69,677 Muscogee citizens who are 18 and older.
The Muscogee Creek Nation reported a total of 92,116 citizens in August.
This story is part of the Oklahoma Media Center’s Promised Land collaborative effort, which shows how the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma decision will affect both tribal and non-Indigenous residents in the state.
It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Inasmuch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Democracy Fund. The print, digital and broadcast media partners include: CNHI Oklahoma, Cherokee Phoenix, Curbside Chronicle, The Frontier, Gaylord News, Griffin Communications, KFOR, KGOU, KOSU, The Lawton Constitution, Moore Monthly, Mvskoke Media, the Native American Journalists Association, NonDoc, The O’Colly, Oklahoma City Free Press, The Oklahoma Eagle, Oklahoma Gazette, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Watch, Osage News, StateImpact Oklahoma, Tulsa World, Telemundo Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Student Media and Verified News Network.