This week while writing the article, “Officials meet with displaced residents,” a Tribal Tribune journalist sent a question to the Colville Tribal Police Department’s Chief of Police Dustin Best about any investigation related to an Oct. 3 fire at the Grandview Trailer Court. During that fire, three homes were lost, and afterwards the Colville Business Council voted to close the location, citing health and safety hazards.
In response to the question, Best replied with a Public Disclosure Request Form, asking the journalist to fill out the form and return it the PD’s records department.
The form was simple, including the requesters information and a description of the report to help staff locate information.
When the form was completed and returned, PD staff replied with the requested documents quickly (a note on the form states documents may take up to five days to return).
The documents included both the initial narrative report by the responding officer, as well as the final supplemental report by the tribal detective.
In Indian Country, journalism is often sequestered to a distant side of the conversation, unprotected by freedom of press laws, hindered by government-controlled budgets and scared by employment status.
Indian Country’s communities suffer.
Freedom of press, and the sharing of accurate and timely information, is an integral part of tribal sovereignty and is essential to maintaining that sovereignty.
The Colville Reservation knows more than anyone, as it was through journalism and the sharing of information the Colville tribes’ sovereignty was maintained during the fight against termination.
Though the Colville Business Council has not passed freedom of pass legislation as of yet, moments of transparency suggest the Colville Reservation is headed in the right direction.
This week’s information request was one of these moments.
We thank the Colville Tribal Police Department, Chief of Police Best and the staff in the record’s program for their work sharing public information. We look forward to continued information sharing as the Colville Reservation continues to strive toward freedom of press.