Native Nations’ IDs are both evidence and exercise of sovereignty, and they should stand on their own as validators of tribal citizens’ rights to vote in tribal, federal or state elections and to travel and return home unimpeded. This should be so for those Native Nations that issue passports to their citizens and those that issue other IDs. Whether Native people consider themselves as citizens solely of their Native Nations or as having dual citizenship, first in their Native Nations and then in the U.S., they should be on the same side as those who are opposed to overly stringent voter ID requirements by states. The Republican-led state initiatives, however nicely self-described, will most likely keep from voting the non-white, elderly, young and poor, who tend to vote for the Democrats. Or, as Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, infamously bragged in June about the Republican checklist: “Voter ID—which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania—done!” The Pennsylvania law requires voters to produce state-approved photo identification. This can impose a substantial if not complete burden on people who do not drive or who no longer have a driver’s license; have changed residences and/or last names, but haven’t updated their Social Security card or other IDs; have misplaced or do not have a birth certificate; or who have identification from other states. What about the unlucky person who lost all required papers in a fire, burglary or flight from abuse, or who lacks the means to obtain the necessary backup documents?
How might that apply to Native people? For starters, there are a lot of Native people in Pennsylvania, even though the commonwealth did a thorough job (or nearly so) in getting rid of Native Nations. Many Native people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were born at home and have delayed birth certificates (which often are challenged) or none at all. More than a few cannot locate papers because of domestic upheaval or dysfunction. If they don’t drive and don’t have non-driver’s licenses, they may rely fully on tribal IDs.
Native Nations already have all needed documentation on file, some with family histories going back well before there was a United States or states or colonies. They have recorded birth, death, marriage, children, name change and other data to vouch for their citizens. Native Nations are the cognizant authority for their citizenry and states should afford them the respect and recognition they deserve. Would Native Nations be free of error, manipulation or corruption? No, but no state can answer affirmatively either.