Problems have arisen as a result of the creation of international borders. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, this continent was not divided into three separate countries, each with its own immigration requirements. (Some say that the Indians’ first mistake was not tightening up immigration laws). This artificial creation of international boundaries divided some tribes that lived and hunted along what are now the borders of Canada and Mexico.
In 1783, the Treaty of Paris established the international border between Canada and the U.S. in the middle of Mohawk lands. The tribe currently has 14,000 acres near St. Regis, New York and 24,000 acres in Canada - mostly consisting of 2 islands. Island residents pass through U.S. waters to get to mainland Canada. The tribe has a Canadian Tribal Council and an American Tribal Council with different tribal membership requirements for each. The Canadian Indian Act states that children retain the Indian status of their fathers. To be enrolled in the U.S. Mohawk Tribe, a child’s mother must be enrolled to be eligible for membership. Thus, if a child is born to a Canadian Mohawk mother and an American Mohawk father, the child would be ineligible for enrollment in either tribe, even though he or she is a full-blood Mohawk.
The U.S./Canadian border also separated the Blackfeet Tribe. In the U.S., the federal government placed three separate tribes on a single reservation and renamed the tribes Blackfeet. The Blackfeet is actually comprised of the Piegan, Blood and Blackfoot tribes. In Canada these three tribes each retain separate reservations (known as reserves in Canada).
In 1794, the U.S. and Great Britain entered into the Jay Treaty also known as the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation. Article 3 of the treaty permitted Indians to have free passage across the U.S./Canadian border. It also stated that neither country would impose a duty on goods carried by Indians as long as the goods did not exceed what the individual could physically carry.
Beginning in 1795, the U.S. government initiated policies that were contrary to the Jay Treaty. The U.S. implemented a law in 1795 that required Indian traders to get a permit from the federal government. Britain objected to this because it violated the Jay Treaty and disturbed the fur trade. The U.S. conceded that the requirement did indeed violate the treaty but didn’t stop requiring permits.
After the War of 1812, the U.S. government initiated policies to get Indians under federal control and ignored the open border guarantees of the Jay Treaty, but in 1924, the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed in the U.S. that allows Indians free access across the Canadian border. Current U.S. immigration policies allow free access to Canadian Indians whose tribes have been split by the U.S./Canadian border. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 requires, however, that Indians possess at least 50% Indian blood quantum to receive the immigration exemption. Canada does not reciprocate at this time.