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Published: Sunday, June 7, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

Tribes tell members to use tribal ID at U.S. border crossings with Canada

Many say they can't afford upgrading to the security features the federal government advocates.

People crossing the U.S.-­Canada border are now required to show a passport or enhanced driver's license, but American Indian leaders are encouraging tribal members to continue using their tribe-issued identification cards instead.
The National Congress of American Indians, which opposes the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative's passport requirement, fought hard for the right of tribes to cross the border using cards issued by tribal governments. Federal officials agreed to accept tribal ID, as long as tribes developed enhanced cards with top-notch security features.
So far, just one tribe, the Kootenai in Idaho, has signed an agreement with federal officials to develop its own enhanced ID system. That tribe is still creating its system. Leaders of other tribes say they don't have the money to develop their own systems.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, it's unlikely that other tribes will be ready to implement enhanced ID cards until December or early next year. Until then, according to statements released by the organization, Indians should continue using their current tribal-issued ID cards.
"(The Department of Homeland Security) has said that they will be 'flexible' in allowing tribal IDs to be used for a 'modest but reasonable transition period,'" Theresa Sheldon, a Tulalip tribal policy analyst, said in a presentation at a recent tribal conference. "NCAI has no idea what 'modest, but reasonable transition period' means. NCAI is counseling tribal members to continue to use their tribal ID cards."
Indians who live along the Canadian border have for generations crossed back and forth for cultural and religious ceremonies and to visit relatives. Many Indians protested the passport requirement, saying that they were promised the right to cross the border freely.
Tribal leaders plan to meet with Canadian First Nations leaders at a conference next week in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where they are expected to discuss how to protect each tribe's sovereignty while retaining relatively easy access across the border, according to the conference agenda.
Tulalip tribal leaders could not be reached for comment.
Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422, kkapralos@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » TulalipFederalIndian Tribes

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