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Hassles of crossing Canadian/United States borders

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  • Hassles of crossing Canadian/United States borders

    INTERNATIONAL BORDERS are not a part of American Indian or First Nations culture. Before the coming of the Europeans to Turtle Island (hence, pre-contact), indigenous oral histories tell of individuals from ALL tribes, who freely explored the four directions.

    Upon arrival, early immigrants brought a practice from Europe that was totally foreign to indigenous North Americans – the practice of building fences to show ownership and boundaries of trespass. Today this European practice has evolved from fences, to modern international boundaries separating Canada from the United States.

    Indigenous people have relations residing on both sides of the border and did not recognize borders before pre-contact. Currently, there are peoples on both sides of the border working to establish international law to allow easier access of indigenous movement across US/Canada boundaries (also Mexico). Until this is formalized and recognized by international law, we as Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island have to abide by the border laws of our respective countries.

    We are fast approaching the height of powwow season and powwow people are traveling greater distances than ever before. In crossing into the US or Canada, sometimes a customs agent will just ask your citizenship and wave you by. For those not so lucky, there are many possible difficulties to consider when traveling back and forth from Canada to the U.S. These difficulties can sometimes turn into “outright hassles” in trying to cross a border checkpoint.

    Some of these hassles potentially include:
    · Being asked to surrender documentation for possessing eagle feathers and other protected specie's body parts.
    · Arriving at a border that is closed for the evening.
    · Having “proper” identification.
    · Being subject to background checks to make sure you are not fleeing prosecution, indebtedness or warrants for arrest.
    · Explaining your destination(s) and how long you are going to be “visiting.”
    · Being asked to pull aside and having a drug sniffing dog invade the inside of your vehicle.
    · Having to declare your intentions for crossing.
    · Being subject to taxes to a country where you are not a citizen.
    · Exchanging currency and all its implications.
    · And EVEN being subject to opening personal medicine bundles for inspection by border guards.

    These are some of the realities to consider when traveling back and forth.

    What have you experienced when trying to cross international borders?
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

  • #2
    So Far ... So Good

    I have travelled to and from the US several times in the last few years. My last trip was to California in 2002 ... and then i went to Siberia in the fall of 2003. As an inuvialuit ... i take in to consideration that "anything" may be asked of me as i am crossing borders ... so, i prepare for what ever i can for see, being asked of me.

    To date ... i have had no trouble bringing my art (or me) to and/or from out of country.

    i admit ... the security is "different" since 9/11 ... however, i have a whole lot more patience with customs officers, then, i did prior to 9/11. especially, when they may ask me, "what is Inuvialuit?" lol ... but, once i say, "i am an Eskimo" ... i hear, "ahh".

    "A person who works with their hands is a laborer,
    A person who works with their hands & their brain is a craftsman,
    A person who works with their brain & their heart ... is an Artist".
    Join my on my face book fan page:


    • #3
      Well, last time I went to Canada, it was post 9/11. It was last July. My fiance and I had no problems crossing the border. He's 1/2 Inuit from Baker Lake and 1/2 Mi'kmaq from Elsipogtog. I had feathers with me, and some other personal items, ie medicine bundle, etc, and we had no problems. They didn't ask me to open the bundle, and I asked them not to handle the feathers, and they didn't. I just had to show the necessary documentation showing I was allowed to have them, and that's it. On the way back, I just showed them the same thing. They have to check these things because they want to make sure people aren't illegaly carrying these feathers, or smuggling them across the border. Its sad to say it, but in all reality people are starting to smuggle eagle feathers, like they have been smuggling drugs. People bring them down here and sell them and whatnot. The reason they ask you to open your medicine bundles sometimes is because some plants or their products aren't allowed across the borders from either country. There's several diseases that these plants carry, that can only spread if they're brought over. There was a case of this here in the US a long time ago, my mom was telling me about it. I think it was people from England were bringing over some kind of trees, but they had diseases and it spread from those trees they brought over, to the native species here, and it caused them to be diseased as well. Anyway, here on the Indian and Northern Affairs (Canada) site they give you the things you need to know when crossing with feathers, and then there are links, where it states that if you wish for the agents not to handle your feathers or bundles, just say so, and they'll keep their distance, but will ask you to hold them while they inspect them. The tax thing, pretty much everyone has to pay taxes when crossing the border. We had to pay them on the cigarettes my fiance brought over. That's life though. But all in all, we didn't get hasseled.

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