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article imageMohawks Threaten Canada-US Border Security

By Brandon McPhail     Jun 1, 2009 in Politics
Mohawk Warriors have threatened to storm a Canadian border post at the Canada-US border crossing on the Akewsasne reserve. The reserve straddles Ontario, Quebec and New York.
The Canadian-American border changed today. As of June 1 the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative takes effect, requiring citizens of all countries to have a passport or be denied entry to the United States. June 1st also marked the day that Canadian Border Services Agency guards were to report to work at the border crossing on the Akwesasne Reserve armed.
Since 2007 the Canadian Border Services Agency has been arming its border agents with 9mm handguns. Residents of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve have intimidated border guards into staying home for their own safety after Mohawk Warriors warned of violence if guards are armed. Mohawk Grand Chief Tim Thompson said: Canadian Border Services Agency officers have voluntarily decided to leave the Akwesasne Mohawk territory before midnight for their own safety.
The Akewsasne Mohawk Reserve has made headlines before. With 20 000 cartons of illegally smuggled cigarettes coming across the border into Canada daily from the US via the Akewsasne Reserve, armed border guards could cause a problem. The same Mohawk Warriors who oppose the arming of border guards have been caught smuggling cigarettes, drugs and guns across the border into Canada for decades. '
In 2006 a 19 year old resident of the reserve was caught smuggling 700 000 cartons of cigarettes across the border using a snowmobile and a trailer. These unregulated cigarettes make it onto the streets of Canadian cities where they are sold for half the price of regular cigarettes to anyone who has the money.
Residents of the reserve are concerned that arming guards may lead to violence. Mohawk Warriors who live on the reserve but are not a part of the leadership structure have threatened to overrun the border post if guards are armed. Currently autonomous rule over the reserve is in the hands of the Mohawk leadership. The leadership and residents must still adhere to the Criminal Code of Canada, therefore arming themselves without permit would be against the law. The Jay Treaty of 1794 established the rights of Natives on the reserve, particularly in relation to the then American-British border.
The treaty allows for Mohawks on either side of the border to travel freely across the border with their "own property goods and effects” but does not allow for “goods in bales, or other large packages” to travel without potential inspection. The Jay Treaty is viewed by the Mohawk leadership as a treaty between America and the British Crown, therefore open to interpretation as they were not signatories.
Since the September 11 attacks border issues have been of great concern in North America. Recently American Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that the September 11 terrorists did not in fact cross into the US from Canada, highlighting tensions over the matter. With the Akewsasne crossing being shut down and unguarded there are now real national security concerns on both sides of the border.
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