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CBP designates first native American tribe’s Enhanced Tribal Card as acceptable travel document

Kootenai lands

On Jan. 31, the Idaho Kootenai tribe’s identification document officially became a valid form of identification to enter the U.S.

The tribe, whose lands straddle the U.S./Canadian border in Idaho, was the first Native American tribe to sign a memorandum of agreement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2009 to begin the process of creating a secure travel document denoting identity, tribal membership and citizenship. Production of the cards began in May 2011, said CBP.

The notice designating the Kootenai Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC) as a travel document acceptable for entering into the United States through a land or sea port of entry was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 3.

Under new rules begun in 2008 DHS began allowing all U.S. federally-recognized tribes to work with CBP to produce an ETC denoting citizenship and identity that could be accepted for entry into the United States through a port of entry. Under a memorandum of agreement, each interested U.S. tribe will develop a secure photo identification document to be issued only to the tribe’s legitimate members who could be either U.S. or Canadian citizens. These documents can be electronically verified by CBP at ports of entry.

Since 2008, said CBP, several U.S. tribes have discussed the ETC initiative with the agency and are currently working with it to enhance their tribal identification document. To date, said the agency, 12 U.S. tribes have officially submitted an ETC memorandum of agreement to CBP. Out of these 12, CBP has signed a memorandum of agreement with six: the Kootenai of Idaho, the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona, the Seneca of New York, the Tohono O’odham of Arizona, the Coquille of Oregon, and the Hydaburg of Alaska.

The Kootenai ETC incorporates secure issuance processes, document security features and radio frequency identification technology that meet the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, said CBP. The ETCs will be available to qualifying Kootenai Tribe members on a voluntary basis, it said.

The CBP explained the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is a cross-border tribe whose members live in the U.S. or Canada and it is also one of seven bands of the Kootenai Nation, with two in the United States and five in Canada. Under the current agreement, only members of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho can be issued an ETC, it said.

“We are proud of our partnership with CBP that has led to the issuance of the Kootenai ETC,” said Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter. “The Kootenai ETC allows our tribal citizens to continue to travel within Kootenai Territory on both sides of the United States-Canada boundary to visit family and practice our culture while helping to secure the border for the greater good of all citizens.”