When I became the Managing Editor of the Kalihwisaks about a decade ago, I threw open the door to any and all letters for any topic or length. I reasoned at people would understand that these were letters, opinions, not necessarily fact, and that people would attempt to maintain a semi-civil tone in their letter writing.
Dang, was I wrong.
So, back came the word limit of 500 words and some controls on what could and couldn’t be printed. For example, if you were accusing someone of specific actions or misdeeds, there had to be documentation. Want to talk money? We need documentation. Want to engage in name calling? That’s what the internet is for.
Eventually, it was requested that the letter limit go to 250 words. I didn’t fight it because people were still calling letters “articles”.
Now there’s a petition by Frank Cornelius to throw open the doors to all letters 400 words or less. I have no problem with the word length, but hard experience has taught me that there has to be limits on what can be printed in the paper.
As written, I would be obligated to print any letter sent as long as it was 400 words in length. There are no provisions for swear words, name calling, or out and out lies – what’s referred to as libel when done in print form.
I imagine there are certain letters that we can all agree shouldn’t get printed. For example, once in a while we get letters that consist of four pages of loops, like someone was writing a cursive l repeatedly. My question is – how many words is that? We had a person upset that someone called her a name in our letters (back in the wild no rules policy era) but her letter in response was worse than a Trump Tweet.
While most of us could agree those letters shouldn’t be printed in the Kalihwisaks, some of the petitioner’s letters tend to fall in a grey area. On occasion, Mr. Cornelius throws out dollar amounts without documentation, and accuses the former administrators of Oneida Seven Generations Corporation of theft and felonious activities without proof. Potentially, some his letters rise to the level of libel which could result in himself and the Kalihwisaks being sued. You might be saying “but you can’t sue a sovereign tribe.” No, but it still costs money to send a lawyer to court to tell the judge that.
Mr. Cornelius is using “free speech” to force his opinions on the pages of the Kalihwisaks, but free speech doesn’t mean using Oneida’s resources for one’s own personal crusade. It’s being able to say and write what you wish, but you may have to pay for the ink and paper (or computer and WIFI connection). Mr. Cornelius can share his opinions in many ways; he can make copies and distribute them at meetings, submit them to other area papers such as the Green Bay Press Gazette or the Oneida Times, or he can publish them online such as on the Oneida Eye or social media sites like Facebook. The ways one can get into trouble with free speech are endless; let’s not drag the Kalihwisaks in there.
3 Responses to A word about free speech
Hello, I recently attended the last GTC meeting and seen for myself why you don’t always print what people want, WOW! what a circus and the way people can be fired up so easily is a joke. people need to use the little paper we have for the right thing and not bashing each other. I was so ashamed of some of our people that I don’t think I will attend another meeting. I just hope we can learn from each others mistakes and stop making all new ones like we’ve been doing for a long time.
I just want to say that I do understand the need for food and other things that make life possible, but to many people that don’t need help will find a way to get their hands in the cookie jar and get assistance they don’t need or deserve and we need a better way than having everything for free, like teach people, if you want to spend your money on foolish things like a big screen TV and need help with food later, this is not an option, make a little sense out of this and take anyone with children that get these ridiculous tax credit stuff off any assistance list because this is assistance already because you didn’t earn it nor do you deserve it but the fact remains, you get it if you have kids, so or food pantry should only be for handicapped and elderly. or young people should really take a long look in the mirror and ask ur self, why do I need this and do I deserve it cuz I blew through my money making foolish decisions? And I hope you don’t think you deserve it cuz ur Oneida because I’m Oneida and I have to pay my own way and some of ur way too! your welcome , even though you never say Thank you! And anyone who truly needs assistance please don’t be offended because you are not the one I was talking about. The ones that take full advantage of the system and get what they can for free, Shame on you!!!!!!!
Communities That Care is beginning in our Southern Montana communities, mostly Native American. Was the Oneida experience with CTC strongly empowering of the traditional elders and families? On a scale of 1 – 10 how empowering was its broad healing impact on Native American children there?