The tribe is only 28,000 strong. The Tohono O'odham is a group of aboriginal Americans who reside primarily in the Sonoran Desert of the southeastern Arizona and northwest Mexico. But it’s got its own travel card thanks to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona today (Tuesday, Nov. 3) formalized an agreement to develop a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC)—signed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Assistant Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski and Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona Chairperson Ned Norris, Jr., in a ceremony in Washington.

The ETC verifies tribal citizenship and identity for the purpose of entering the United States by land or sea—enhancing safety and security of U.S. borders while facilitating legitimate travel and trade.

“This agreement will strengthen safety along our borders while providing Tohono O’odham members a secure and standardized ID card,” said Secretary Napolitano. “In the months ahead, we will continue to build upon these efforts—from secure identification to preparing for emergencies—with our tribal partners across the country.”

“This agreement is of tremendous importance to the Tohono O’odham Nation and is an excellent example of how positive government-to-government relations can benefit the greater good. Secretary Napolitano, Acting Commissioner Ahern, CBP and the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council deserve a great deal of credit for their diligence in developing this momentous agreement,” said Chairperson Norris. “The Tohono O’odham Nation is committed to doing its part by working with federal authorities to protect the U.S. homeland.”

Today’s agreement reflects Secretary Napolitano’s commitment to close coordination with tribal partners across the United States on security initiatives and underscores the mutual commitment of DHS and the Tohono O’odham Nation to enhance border security and combat threats of terrorism and transnational crime through secure identification.

Since January, CBP has also signed agreements with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona and the Seneca Nation of New York. CBP is currently working with approximately 25 additional tribes across the country on the ETC initiative.

WHTI is a joint initiative between DHS and the Department of State that implements a key 9/11 Commission recommendation and Congressional mandate to establish document requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the United States, Canada and Bermuda.

DHS implemented WHTI at land and sea ports of entry as of June 1, requiring travelers to present an approved travel document to enter the United States. Approved documents include passports, U.S. passport cards, trusted traveler program cards and state- or province-issued enhanced driver’s licenses. Upon successful testing and issuance, ETCs, developed in accordance with the signed agreement, will also be accepted for border crossings.