Mobile units will be dispatched to local and out-of-state communities with large populations of Cherokee citizens.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For the first time ever, Cherokee Nation is issuing photo tribal citizenship cards. Starting this month, Cherokee citizens can visit the tribe’s registration department to get a valid photo ID, similar in appearance to a driver’s license.
“I’ve presented my photo tribal citizenship card at several major airports, and even to the U.S. Secret Service, and experienced no problems whatsoever,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Producing a government-issued, photo ID helps to instill a greater sense of pride in our people and decrease the possibility of fraud or misuse of the traditional ‘blue card.’”
More than a year of planning and design was required to transform the tribal citizenship cards, also known as “blue cards,” into photo IDs. The cards still feature a citizen’s Cherokee Nation registration number and official registrar signature, but have been upgraded to include the citizen’s photo and signature, Principal Chief’s signature and a distinctive Cherokee Nation seal hologram for validation. Citizens may also opt for their official Bureau of Indian Affairs Certificate Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) on the back.
“Our traditional blue cards weren’t laminated or as durable as the new cards are,” Cherokee Nation Registrar Linda O’Leary said. “Previously, citizens carried two different cards for proof of Native American ancestry, but now it can all be printed onto one card. These government-issued, photo IDs will be useful for more than just Cherokee Nation services, and it only takes a moment inside the registration office to get the photo and print the ID.”
The Cherokee Nation’s registration department began issuing the photo IDs under a pilot program to employees in September, then to all citizens in October. As of Oct. 8, more than 2,000 cards have been issued. Mobile units will be dispatched to local and out-of-state communities with large populations of Cherokee citizens. The current out of state schedule is as follows:
Oct. 27 – Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Oct. 28 – San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 10 – Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz.
Nov. 11 – Albuquerque, N.M.
Cherokee citizens are asked to check with their local Cherokee groups for more details. As more dates are scheduled, notices will be sent to area media. The tribe estimates it may take years to get its more than 300,000 citizens an upgraded card.
Citizens can still use their traditional blue registration cards, but they can upgrade to a photo ID by visiting the Cherokee Nation registration office from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday at the W.W. Keeler Complex, 17067 S. Muskogee Ave. Children 12 and younger can also get a new photo blue card but must have a parent or legal guardian present to sign the card. Upgrading to a photo ID is free. Replacement IDs are $5.
Colleen Ketcher, a Cherokee Nation citizen and wife of the late Deputy Chief John Ketcher, is one of the first registered tribal members to update her blue card with a new valid photo ID registration card.