The Nation launched its tribal ID program in November with a trial run of 100 randomly issued cards. Navajo President Ben Shelly this week announced the cards are ready for public distribution.
"It is a priority that the Navajo people have an identification card that better serves the Navajo people's needs," Shelly said in a prepared statement. "I am happy to announce the Navajo people can now get their tribal ID cards."
The cards are designed to boost convenience, security and privacy for enrolled members of the tribe. Tribal members are determined by blood quantum: the Navajo Nation requires members to have one-fourth Navajo blood, or the equivalent of one full-blooded Navajo grandparent.
The ID cards will replace the Certificate of Indian Blood, green pieces of paper used for identification purposes. Cardholders can use them for identification verification when entering government buildings or crossing the borders into Canada and Mexico.
"We worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make sure our Navajo Nation ID cards could work like a state ID with added benefits," Shelly said.
Tribes increasingly are issuing cards to members to offer easier identification as American Indians and to streamline affairs with outside agencies. The cards are expected to make it easier for Navajo citizens to access health care, apply for jobs or do other business based on enrollment in a federally recognized tribe.
The vertical ID cards verify a holder's membership in the tribe, and they include the holder's name, birth date, photo and Certificate of Indian Blood number. Cards are valid for four years.
The cards "define a sense of being a member of the Navajo Nation," Tom Ranger, director of the Navajo Division of Human Resources, previously said. "It's a statement toward sovereignty and helps us get over the cases of mistaken identity."
Those wanting tribal ID cards must first update their files at their local Navajo Agency Office of Vital Records and Identification. A state-issued ID will be used to verify a person's identification, and a new photo and signature will be collected.
The final cards will be available for $17 at the Navajo Office of Vital Records and Identification, in Window Rock, Ariz.
The cost of the card goes toward printing materials.