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Native/Indigenous Americans

Identifying those who are the descendants of America’s earliest peoples

As of January 2017, there are 567 federally-recognized tribal entities in the United States. These entities may be called tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, Rancherias, and native villages. The U.S. Constitution recognizes that Indian Nations are sovereign governments, and tribal nations provide a broad range of services, similar to those provided by states. 

In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship status to all Native Americans born in the U.S., yet some states continued to bar Native Americans from voting until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and subsequent legislation

Despite some gains, “more than a quarter of Indian people continue to live in poverty, and unemployment rates on reservation are more than double the population at large.” Tribal communities may also lack infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and telecommunication connections, which contributes to these trends. In some instances, Native Americans “may not be able to provide proof of residence… because many tribal communities do not have street addresses.” 

Tribal nations issue Tribal Identification Cards to tribal members. To apply, you must have “completed your genealogical research, documented your ancestry, and determined the tribe with which your ancestor was affiliated,” as each tribe determines whether an individual is eligible for membership. Tribes may also vote to dis-enroll members.

Each tribe has their own application requirements. The Cherokee Nation, for example, mandates that members visit the main CN Registration office in Tahlequah during regular business hours Monday through Friday to apply for an ID card, and that they must bring with them another form of photo ID to do so. 

A Tribal Identification Card should be an acceptable form of identification in many cases, including air travel. Some states with voter ID laws in place do not accept Tribal Identification Cards as a proper form of ID.