A discussion of the impacts of border protection in Havre Thursday turned to a time before there were borders.
During a meeting to collect public comment on a study on the environmental impacts of U. S. Custom and Border Protection actions, Duncan Standing Rock Sr. and Alvin Windy Boy Sr. of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, said actions on and off the border affect American Indians, directly and culturally.
“I have a lot of concerns, ” Standing Rock said.
Standing Rock said Native Americans’ relatives, history and traditions cross the border.
“We call North America our Mother Earth. This is our Mother Earth, both on the other side of the border and on this side”
But, he said, there are misunderstandings about Native traditions, obligations and even rights through treaties.
“What I would like to see
is the immigration offices, you people, should get together with the Canadian immigration people to get a better understanding of native … people on both sides of the border, ” he said.
He added that many Native Americans follow traditional religions, including activities such as using sweetgrass. The border officials do not always respect that, he said.
“It’s very rude, if you’re a Native American, and some … religious artifacts, whatever they have, (are) taken away and thrown away …, ” he said.
“Sometimes they deny their freedom of religion, ” he said, and sometimes even having a misdemeanor driving under the influence charge will keep someone out.
“We have sisters and brothers over there, and it separates our people, ” Standing Rock said.
The problems could keep hundreds, even thousands of people from crossing the border and supporting the economies of the region, he said.
“They spend a lot of money, ” Standing Rock said. “Some of them are driven back. ”
Border officials on both sides need to understand the traditions of the natives, he said.
Windy Boy, historic preservation officer for the Chippewa Cree Tribe and a former chair of its council, said the impacts of actions by officials on and away from the border can have a major impact on Native American culture and history, which he likened to his tribe’s being forced onto a reservation to try to make livings on marginal land as farmers and ranchers.
“What we’re trying to preserve is very small, 140,000-some acres, ” he said, adding that, historically and now, they have little resources with which to do that.
He asked what protection will be made for historic, cultural and religious sites. It is apparent that CBP has not worked with the tribes in the northern and southern borders’ corridors — many suggestions have been made by tribes, but none of those are included, he said.
He said two or three years ago the tribes suggested that immigration officials be taught cultural sensitivity, adding that the hundreds of tribes in the nation, and in Canada, have different cultures and traditions.
He said that, in the case of the Cree, they have cultural and religious sites on both sides of the border, and for hundreds of miles both east and west.
The same is true for the Ojibwe, he said.