TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation issued its 15,000th photo ID citizenship card on May 2 to a tribal member who drove two hours from Arkansas to Oklahoma to get one, proving how popular the new “blue cards” have been.

“I just wanted to have one because I’m proud to be Cherokee,” said Brian Fleming, 50, a retired construction worker from Havana, Ark. “I’m going to use it everywhere I go.”

The tribe started issuing the photo IDs in its registration department starting Oct. 1, 2012, and has traveled with mobile units to Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kansas, New Mexico, Missouri, Texas and Washington, D.C., so far to issue them to at-large citizens.

“The Cherokee Nation photo ID citizenship cards have been wildly successful,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who was issued the very first one last year. “In our first seven months issuing the cards, we’ve crossed the 15,000 threshold and really are just getting started. Our people are using the photo IDs to access tribal services, get through major airports or cash checks at their neighborhood banks. We created a tool that is not just a source of pride, but an exercise of our tribal sovereignty.”

The tribe’s upgraded photo ID citizenship cards are similar in appearance to a driver’s license. It features the citizen’s Cherokee Nation registration number, photo and signature; the official registrar signature; the Principal Chief’s signature; and a distinctive Cherokee Nation hologram seal for validation. Citizens can opt for their official Bureau of Indian Affairs Certificate Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) on the back of the card.

To upgrade to a photo ID “blue card,” visit the Cherokee Nation registration office from 8:30-11:30 a.m. or 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday at the W.W. Keeler Complex, 17067 S. Muskogee Ave. Children 18 and under can also get a new photo ID card but must have a parent or legal guardian present to sign. Upgrading to a photo ID is free, but replacement IDs are $5. For more information, contact the Cherokee Nation Registration Department at 918-458-6980 or 1-800-256-0671 or registration@cherokee.org.