Cross-Border Issues (Jay Treaty)

Submitted by admin on Fri, 03/11/2011 - 10:44
Publication Volume
Facet Content Type

Fall 1996

Facts About The Jay Treaty For
Canadian-Born Native Americans

Notice: This article is very old! It was created in 1996 and may not be accurate today. We are working on updates and will post them soon. 

NOTE: If you live in Maine and have more questions, you can contact the Indigenous Peoples Unit of Pine Tree Legal Assistance

If you live in the U.S. but outside of Maine, go to this list of Indian Legal Services programs to find help in your state.

In Canada, contact Aboriginal Legal Service of Toronto or Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Native Americans may have problems getting jobs, government benefits or services because their rights under existing U.S. law are misunderstood. Many of those rights arose out of the "Jay Treaty". The "Jay Treaty" is an agreement signed by the United States and Great Britain in 1794 to allow Canadian born Native Americans to travel freely across the U.S./Canadian border. The "Jay Treaty" recognized that,

The Indians dwelling on either side of the...boundary line...{shall have the right} freely to pass and repass by land or island navigation...and to navigate all the lakes, rivers and waters thereof, freely, to carry on trade and commerce with each other.

Since 1928, United States law has specifically recognized the right of "American Indians born in Canada to pass the borders of the United States" but has limited that right to "persons who possess at least 50 per centum of blood of the American Indian race." 8 U.S.C. 1359. If you are a Native American born in Canada of 50% or more "Indian blood", you have specific rights and benefits.

Some of the specific rights include the right to:

  • Cross the U.S./Canada border freely
  • Visit the United States
  • Live or work in the United States

You do not have to:

  • Have an alien card "green card".
  • Register at the Post Office as an alien
  • Obtain work authorization.

The U.S. Government cannot:

  • Deport You.
  • Exclude You from entry.
  • Deny You services.
  • Impound or search sacred objects you have in your possession having religious significance to you as a Native American.

This is a very brief summary of the rights and benefits which are recognized by the Federal government and the State of Maine. This list should not be considered a complete summary of the aboriginal border crossing rights of Native Peoples and First Nations. For more information on your rights as a Canadian-born Native American, go to the more detailed AILA Jay Treaty Information.