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Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Becomes First in the Nation to Include Donor Designation on Tribal ID’s

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa are the first to say “yes” to offering this option for their members; opening the door for other Tribal Nations.

On June 7th 2022, the Tribal Council of Turtle Mountain adopted “The Greyson Initiative,” a law to add organ, eye and tissue donor registration on tribal identification documents. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa are the first to say “yes” to offering this option for their members.

Passing this resolution is inspired by the advocacy of Joan Azure. Joan is driven by her personal and professional experience with donation and transplantation. Joan had a career in the medical field for many years as the Director of Quality Assurance at Quentin Burdick Memorial Healthcare Facility where she ensured that procedures were followed for potential organ donations. She met annually with staff from Lifesource but didn’t think much about donation and transplant at that time. Unfortunately, all of that changed when she learned that her seven month old Grandson, Greyson, needed a heart transplant.

While Greyson’s transplant was successful, he became sick in September of 2019. He passed away shortly after his family learned he had pneumonia. He was just 21 months old.

Although Joan and her family were grieving, she continued advocating for donation. She and her daughter Reeanne (Greyson’s Mother) spoke at the Donate Life Symposium, just weeks after Greyson passed away. It was here that Joan and Reeanne learned where registration was high and noticed that their community and many other reservations had some of the lowest registration rates.

Joan and Reeanne knew that more people in their community would register if it were easier for them to do and Joan thought that if it were an option on tribal ID’s, people would know the Tribal Council supported it. Joan went to work learning how to make this an option at Turtle Mountain.

After more than two years, Joan and her family made this idea is a reality. The Turtle Mountain Tribal Council unanimously passed the resolution (under the leadership of Chairman Jamie Azure) and created a lasting legacy for her Grandson.

The resolution has been named “The Greyson Initiative.”

Did You Know?

Tribal identification (ID) cards are federally recognized. There are 574 federally recognized sovereign Tribal Nations in the United States. Tribal identification (ID) cards issued by these nations are legal forms of identification. A tribal ID allows a person to board an airplane through TSA, travel around and outside the country and vote. 

While many Tribes have taken steps to format their ID’s to more closely resemble state ID’s – adding expiration dates, including Real ID standards- it is important to know that members of sovereign Tribal Nations are not required to have state ID’s.