Border Crossings

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Sun Dec 30 21:50:31 MST 2001

Joan [on Marxism Discussion]:

We do not, I'm extremely sorry to say, get Aboriginal Television in this
section of Idaho -- unless we have really super extensive satellite stuff
[which we  ourselves do not.]

My own observation has been that committed activists can always get back and
across the borders one way or the other.  But, in some eras like this one --
we all are obviously being plunged deeper and deeper into a kind of
fascism -- it can certainly be tougher.  And in many circumstances, it can
be lethally dangerous.

Native people on both sides of the southern border do have, on their side,
eons-old precedent which, in recent historical and contemporary times, is
generally recognized by both the United States and Mexico.  Whatever its
vicissitudes, Mexico has never -- never -- been nearly as committed as the
'States to a monitored border.  [I can tell  some interesting tales on that
one!]  On the Arizona and New Mexico sides, there is a good deal of
grassroots support -- with strong political implications -- for
conventionally unimpeded Native border crossings.  This is one of the
reasons that Congressman Ed Pastor [D-AZ] is  now calling for hearings
to promote free border access for Native people in that region  -- and is
proposing legislation which would protect the crossing interests of the
Tohono O'odham [sometimes called Papago] Nation.  Based primarily in
Arizona, the Tohono O'odham also have a large membership in northern Sonora.
Even if successful, that legislation as now proposed would not specifically
assist the Yaqui of Sonora -- who have many members in Arizona and some in
Mexico -- or other Native peoples.

My hunch is that, while many problems lie ahead, there will be no heavy,
basic obstacles to Native border crossings vis-a-vis the 'States and Mexico.
Strong sympathy in many quarters on both sides of the border,  mounting
media coverage, and Congressional hearings are certainly extremely
important to the Native cause. But it will be especially the shrewd and
extremely knowledgeable and enduring commitment of the Native people that
will persevere over the very long haul.

And it is, after all, one hell of a long and  very rugged border!

The  U.S. / Canadian situation is, of course, different. [I'm sure there are
people on this [Marxism] list who have had very contemporary border
experiences in
that setting.]  As this country -- the U.S. -- moves into its kind of
fascist atmosphere, there
are obviously those in Canada who are joining that  sinister and nefarious
campaign.  If the post-World War II Red Scare is any indicator at all, there
will certainly be mounting problems along the 49th Parallel etc. --
especially for activists. Mutual deportations were common in those days --
and especially mutual travel prohibitions:  e.g., Harvey Murphy of Canadian
Mine-Mill was prevented from entering the 'States and Paul Robeson was
blocked from entering Canada.

But radical creativity came to the fore:  the joint concert gatherings at
Peace Arch in 1952 and 1953 -- arranged primarily by the very enduring and
feisty Murphy -- to hear Paul Robeson, his feet practically touching the
border,  boldly sing forth to both countries [and to the world!]

For Native people, the situation is legally quite different and with a
positive thrust. But I am certainly aware of the limitations of
rights-protecting legalisms when deliberate and
spontaneous fear and hysteria are spreading like forest fires --
accompanied by the increasingly formidable pyramids of repression.

For Native people vis-a-vis the U.S. / Canadian border, the basic legal
document is
the Jay Treaty of 1794 -- between the U.S. and Great Britain -- whose
especially relevant clause is this:

Article Three of the Jay Treaty:

"It is agreed that it shall at all times be free to . . .the Indians
dwelling on either side of said boundary line, freely, to pass and repass by
land or inland navigation, into the respective territories. . .and to
navigate all the lakes, rivers and waters thereof, freely to carry on trade
and commerce with each other."

This was specifically continued by the Treaty of Ghent [1816] which followed
the War of 1812.

And, essentially, all of this has been ultimately upheld in all court
proceedings [e.g., Akins v. Saxbe, a  key 1974 Federal court ruling in
Maine --
and much more.  Andy Akins is a Penobscot from Indian Island, Me.]  And it's
been reflected in a long string of administrative rulings.

All of that said, however, it's been -- as the Akins case and others
demonstrate -- an off and on battle to enforce the Native border crossing
provisions in Jay -- and the natural rights of aboriginal peoples. Heroic
struggles on this front were conducted for many, many years  in the earlier
part of the Twentieth Century by vigorous Native activists affiliated with
the Indian Defense League of America:  among them [and there were many
indeed], Chief Clinton Rickard of Tuscarora ;  Sophie
Martin, Mohawk from the Six Nations Reserve; Frank Meness, Algonquin of
Maniwaki Reserve. All of these and  other stalwarts used, with great
creativity and general
success, non-violent demonstrations, litigation, and political action.
Similar Native efforts have occurred at other points along the border at
various times.

While negative things will certainly intensify along the U.S. / Canadian
border, Native people do have the legal weapons, via Jay and Ghent and all
of the related court decisions and administrative regs,  to fight with
especial depth and effectiveness to protect their border crossing rights.
More than that, they -- like those on both sides of the southern border --
certainly have eons of practice and precedent. But, here too, it will be
especially the shrewd and extremely knowledgeable and enduring commitment of
the Native people that will persevere over the long, long pull.

A related note on Jay and Ghent, etc.  At various teaching points in the
U.S. -- especially at University of Iowa and University of North Dakota -- I
did a great deal of advocate work designed to enable Canadian Native people
to secure acceptance into U.S. higher ed institutions with conventional U.S.
higher ed financial aid.  I handled an initial case at Iowa on behalf of my
good friend, the late Isabelle Deom, Mohawk activist of Caughnawaga in the
mid-1970s.  Although not an attorney, I am well versed in Federal Indian Law
[United States] and have some working knowledge of the Canadian counterpart.
In this case involving Isabelle, I prepared a very lengthy brief -- based on
Jay -- and successfully argued for her acceptance at UI with full financial
aid.  Other cases arose which we also won.  Even more cases occurred at
University of North Dakota -- right under the border --  and we got every
single Canadian Native student admitted there with full financial aid
[including one into Medical School which he very successfully completed.]
Early on, I was contacted by other Native academics in the United States who
also were endeavouring to secure admission and financial aid for Canadian
Natives.  I prepared a trenchant memo on Jay etc as it all related to
Canadian Native people and sent it out widely where it was very well
received and used quite effectively. [No false modesty on this one!]

And again, it's a very long border -- with some places, like Akwesasne on
the St. Lawrence, always so very strategically useful in going swiftly back
and forth!

Determined agitators on the Sunny Side of the Force will always find a way
through -- wherever, whenever.

In the meantime, everyone of us  -- Mexico, Canada, United States and
beyond -- is going to have fight with every resource at his and her command
to protect our rights and those of all others of the fewest alternatives.
This is going to be a hell of a fight on many fronts -- already is -- but we
shall emerge from the crucibles with sharp flint in our hands and we shall
win together.

In Solidarity - Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] (social justice)

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