Florida is home to nearly 2,000 Cherokee citizens, and Saturday’s gathering in Gainesville brought tribal leaders and citizens together for a “family reunion.”
“We’re a very small group,” said Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Bill John Baker. “So we’re all cousins. So these are family picnics.”
Chief Baker, along with Secretary of State of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr., provided the tribe with updates on tribal issues and programs, including housing and health care opportunities.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the luncheon was an opportunity for citizens to register for or renew Cherokee photo ID citizenship cards.
“We went to great lengths to get it as a form of ID that is recognized as a Federal ID,” said Chief Baker. “Our card is just as viable as a state’s driver’s license.”
Tribal citizens attending the event could sign up for photo ID cards without having to make the trip to headquarters in Oklahoma.
Since October 2012, the Cherokee nation has issued more than 69,000 upgraded citizenship cards across the country in Florida, Oklahoma, and 11 other states, as well as Washington D.C.
For Cherokee citizens like Shawn Bayliss, getting his family IDs meant holding on to heritage.
“If they’re not around the tribe like in Oklahoma or North Carolina, unfortunately, then where are they going to get it?” said Bayliss, an Oklahoma-native living in Jacksonville. “So this is an awesome opportunity for my children and grandchildren.”
Chief Baker said he has used his ID at several major airports with no problems. The card features citizens’ Cherokee nation registration number, multiple official signatures, and a distinctive Cherokee Nation hologram seal for validation. Citizens can also opt for their official Bureau of Indian Affairs Certificate Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) on the back of the card.
“Now that they’ve gotten their photo IDs,” Chief Baker said “it’s a great source of pride.”
Tribal leaders will continue their journey across the country after the Gainesville stop.
“I think Cherokees no matter where they live expect to see their chief and expect to see their leaders,” said Cherokee Secretary of State Hoskin. “And we want to bring them their leadership and we want to bring them some culture.
“We really just want to connect.”
Nestor Montoya contributed reporting.