You are not logged in.
NIAGARA FALLS: Native American march marks milestone
Native Americans mark event with march from U.S. into Canada
By Mark Kane
At one point in American history, Native Americans were not allowed to freely move across the U.S. border, even if a native had ties to lands that extended beyond the border.
Those laws were changed with the help of a Tuscaroran man and his Native American organization nearly 80 years ago.
To mark the anniversary, Native Americans from across the United States and Canada will descend on Niagara Falls this weekend for a symbolic march across the border.
The march will begin in a parking lot on Cleveland Avenue and 10th Street in Niagara Falls at 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning and will work its away across the Whirlpool Bridge, which will be closed, said Beverly Rickard Hill, organizer of the march and daughter of Chief Clinton Rickard.
When the march crosses into Canada, it will make its way to Oak Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario. A program celebrating the anniversary in the park will begin at 1:30 p.m. The program will include speeches by American and Canadian Native Americans, a softball tournament and an exhibition lacrosse game.
The law that was in question by Native Americans was the United States Citizenship Act of 1924, a law that forced American citizenship for Native Americans even though many wanted to claim citizenship to their tribes instead.
“The law was geared toward the Chinese and Japanese but Indians were included,” Rickard Hill said. “The Citizenship Act banned Indians that were born in Canada from crossing the border going into the United States because they were not recognized citizens.”
The Citizenship Act contradicted other American treaties that were already in place for more than a century: The Jay Treaty of 1794 and the Treaty of Ghent of 1814, which allows Native Americans to claim Indian citizenship when crossing the borders, according to Rickard Hill.
Although the treaties were already agreed upon, they were not made directly with Canada because it was still a possession of the United Kingdom at the time of the treaties, Rickard Hill said.
Tuscaroran Chief Rickard helped form the Indian Defense League of America in 1926. The goals of the organization were to help change the provisions set forth in the Citizenship Act and other laws through lobbying, according to Rickard Hill.
“The laws were changed after several years of hard work to allow Indians to move across the border,” Rickard Hill said.
The Indian Defense League celebrated the occasion by organizing a march from Niagara Falls, Ontario, to Niagara Falls, N.Y., on July 14, 1928.
Although the first march originated in Ontario, the starting point alternates between the United States and Ontario every year, according to Rickard Hill.
Even though the march has taken place for many years now, a new story line will be involved this year — the issue of border control and identification when crossing the border.
“The Jay Treaty only gives Native Americans the right to claim citizenship as a Native American,” said Kevin Corsaro, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman. “Native Americans, just like all Americans, will be subject to inspection when they return back to the United States.”
Although the issue over mandatory passports for anyone crossing the border into the United States is still in limbo, the Six Nation Confederation is in discussions with the State Department in creating an identification card for citizens of the Confederacy, according to Corsaro.
“We don’t believe that were will be a problem when the march crosses the border,” Corsaro said. “We work closely with the Indian Defense League and we’re usually given information about the people that are crossing before they cross. We fully support this march and we want to assist in any way possible.”
The Whirlpool Bridge will be closed for 30 minutes for the march. Bridge officials do not believe that the closure will cause problems because of the march’s crossing since the bridge is only open to drivers holding NEXUS passes, an automated system for border crossing.
“Since the march is going across the Whirlpool Bridge, it will have the least affect on traffic because the bridge isn’t open to the public,” said Brent Gallaugher, Niagara Bridge Commission agency relations and security manager. “The march won’t impede on traffic.”
The march has historically made its crossing over the Whirlpool Bridge and it is an agreeable crossing point for the Bridge Commission and the Indian Defense League, according to Gallaugher.
http://www.niagara-gazette.com/local/gn … 01927.html