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Western Union clarifies tribal ID policy

A sign advising customers that tribal ID is not accepted at the Western Union kiosk at Hugo’s in Park Rapids has been removed after being criticized in social media.

Sarah LittleRedfeather Kalmanson, a citizen of the White Earth nation, photographed the sign on Dec. 28 and posted it.

The sign, apparently printed off a computer, said, “Receiving (money) through Western Union? We cannot accept tribal IDs as a form of identification. Please provide a driver’s license, state-issued ID or passport.”

‘Learning moment’

LittleRedfeather said she encountered the sign while driving a visiting worker from the Pine Ridge Reservation (S.D.) to the store to send funds to his child. Fortunately, he had an alternate form of ID and was able to complete the transaction.

She observed the sign appeared to be “a typed-up, unofficial note on the Western Union unit,” adding, “I looked at Western Union ID policies, and not once did (they) say anything that a tribal ID wasn’t accepted. They noted ‘government ID,’ among other forms. Tribal IDs are federally recognized, and it is a matter of sovereignty.”

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LittleRedfeather attributed the incident to “lack of education,” adding that “this could be a learning moment.”

“I think our society and communities need education and understanding,” she said.

Taylor Putz, communication director with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, said that if anyone in Minnesota feels they have been discriminated against, they can contact the department’s intake line at 651-539-1133 and an investigator will help them.

Sign taken down

Contacted for comment, a staff member at the Park Rapids Hugo’s store said the sign represented a Western Union policy, not a Hugo’s store policy.

“We’ve got certain IDs that we can accept, and tribal IDs are not one of them,” said store bookkeeper Lynn Davidson. She said she was going to remove the sign, but added that not accepting tribal ID was still WU policy.

“I’ve got to be in compliance with Western Union rules,” she said. “We actually are just an agent for Western Union. So, we have to follow their rules very strictly.”

Scott Van Camp, vice president of operations with Hugo’s, said that the policy store employees were following when the sign was posted dated to when their Western Union counter opened in 2017. “Since that time, Western Union has changed what their policy is,” he said, “and it does include tribal IDs today.”

While he doesn’t think the sign should have been posted, Van Camp said the Park Rapids store did so with the best intentions, though based on outdated rules. “Our intention was just to follow Western Union’s policies,” he said. “We are now current with what the policies are and do accept tribal IDs,” he said. “(We) apologize for any inconvenience or misunderstanding.”

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Van Camp emphasized that Hugo’s welcomes everybody. “We’re here to serve every ethnicity, every group of people.”

Van Camp said any type of discrimination, whether racial, sexual or religious, is not acceptable at Hugo’s, and when it occurs they work quickly to correct it. He also recognized that Hugo’s is responsible to keep up to date with policy changes.

“It’s a good learning experience for us as a company,” he said. “There really was no intention, I don’t believe on anybody’s part, other than to do the right thing with this. Unfortunately, we missed something, and we worked to correct it.”

After learning about the incident, Margaret Fogarty with Western Union Corporate Communications said, “WU does accept tribal ID. We have confirmed our ID policy with the agent, who has removed the sign in question.”

Western Union “values diversity, inclusion and compliance,” said Fogarty. “As a customer-centric organization, we regret any confusion or anguish this message caused for our customers and the community.”

Emma Bauer, director of communications with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said the department “reached out to Western Union to confirm that the sign has been removed and that this is not Western Union’s policy.”

Bauer noted that under Minnesota Statute §171.072, “if a Minnesota identification card is deemed an acceptable form of identification in Minnesota Statutes or Rules, a tribal identification card is also an acceptable form of identification.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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