Free speech and free expression are bedrock rights of all citizens of our great democratic country. However, free speech for Umatilla tribal members will be suppressed and censored unless we march in lockstep to the tribal government party line.

Earlier this year the Confederated Umatilla Journal, a publication owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, twice refused to publish my opinions on relevant tribal issues just because I had a differing opinion.

The first unjustified denial of my free speech rights occurred when I rebutted, supported with facts, an editorial on tribal education. The second came when I responded to a CUJ article on Cayuse Technologies, a tribally owned business, wherein I wrote, again supported with facts, that we owners (shareholders) do not benefit much from CT.

The issue I am writing about today is the lack of free speech, and the lack of transparency.

The East Oregonian newspaper has been the primary source of news and information for our tribal community for generations. Thus, when the CUJ suppressed my two letters, I submitted the letters, verbatim and identical, to the EO and the letters were published in a timely manner. There was obviously nothing in my letters that was libelous, obscene, threatening, or otherwise out of line, or the EO never would have published them.

At any rate, I am OK that I have to use a forum or venue other than our tribal newspaper to express my opinion. Also, it is obvious that the only reason the decision-makers at the CUJ denied my free speech rights is they personally do not agree with the content of what I wrote.

If tribal government allows them to do this, it raises the legitimate question: Do we have a democracy if free speech rights can be denied on the whims of people working in tribal government? Genuine products of journalism, like the East Oregonian, do publish opinions from their readership that may differ from theirs.

Tribal leaders have always welcomed input and viewpoints from the tribal membership. And that is all my two letters are — input from a tribal member.

Bob Shippentower


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