Second Monday in October: Lots to Celebrate

The second Monday in October means many things to many people.

In Canada, it is a day for turkey, and explaining to your American friends on social media that Canada has its own Thanksgiving. In America, it depends on what part of the country you reside. Some places continue to celebrate Columbus Day, while other parts of the U.S., including Washington State, are increasingly celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In 2015, the Bellingham city council officially declared the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day. The Coast Salish people are a grouping of many tribes with numerous distinct cultures and languages. Their traditional territories included metropolitan areas including Victoria, Vancouver, and Seattle. Territory claimed by the Coast Salish peoples spanned from Vancouver Island, most of Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula and as far south as Oregon.

With the colonization of the Americas, the British and American governments enacted arbitrary borders, and separated many indigenous people from their ancestral lands. The U.S. and British recognized that Native Americans had been separated by the newly created border, and negotiated the Jay Treaty in part to mitigate tensions with Native peoples whose lands were bisected by the recently established borders.

Article III of the Jay Treaty thus gave native peoples the right to freely access the United States. This provision of the Jay Treaty has been included in the U.S. and Immigration Nationality Act at §289:

“Nothing in this title shall be construed to affect the right of American Indians born in Canada to pass the borders of the United States, but such right shall extend only to persons who possess at least 50 per centum of blood of the American Indian race.”

Fundamentally, this passage in the complex maze of U.S. immigration law entitles Canadians, with at least 50% native bloodline, privileges to enter and remain in the United States, virtually unrestricted by U.S. immigration laws.

For a more in-depth review of this fascinating provision of immigration law, Please see “American Indians Born in Canada and the Right of Free Access to the United States” co-authored by Greg Boos of Cascadia Cross-Border Law. The article can be accessed at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2334394 andwww.jaytreaty.com.

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