Interview: Doug George-Kanentiio on Native cross-border trade

The Mohawk flag, in red, and the Haudenosaunee flag, in purple, can be seen flying over the "Three Nations Crossing" station at the border between the United States and Canada. Photo by Dominic Labbe via Wikipedia

Mohawk journalist Doug George-Kanentiio discusses how implementation of the Jay Treaty can improve economic conditions for First Nations in Canada and tribes in the United States:
You argue that Canada can improve economic conditions in aboriginal communities by formally recognizing the Jay Treaty, which was signed by the British and the Americans way back after the American Revolution. What does that treaty have to do with aboriginal economic prosperity?

The treaty specifically says that aboriginal people have the right to cross the international border with their goods-- their persons and their goods. And to us that meant that we had the right to control our own economic destinies.

So the treaty grants you the right of free passage across the border for you and your goods without being subjected to any toll. How does that compare to what's actually happening today?

It creates incredible tensions along the border, because the Canadian customs officials who are bound by policies passed in Ottawa, they vigorously enforce Canadian import rules. When we bring up Jay Treaty, they say, well, that doesn't apply here. It just leads to a lot of arguments and physical confrontations, and in a sad way, it has also led to the rise of a narco-smuggling culture that has come to dominate the economics of eastern Ontario and northern New York. Smuggling is rooted in the Jay Treaty, because Canada refuses to find another way so our people are bound to respond to market conditions, and they do... and it creates a whole network of Mohawk criminals. So many of our people, including my own brothers, have been incarcerated, because they maintain they have a right to do this under Jay Treaty and Canada says no.

Get the Story:
The 180: A free trade proposal for aboriginal communities (CBC Radio 12/5)

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