Michigan Asserts Sovereignty Rights in Canoe Crossing

Michigan Asserts Sovereignty Rights in Canoe Crossing
Article and photos by Brita Brookes©
Censored News

August 27, 2010

The local aboriginal community from both the United States metro Detroit area and local Windsor, Ontario area gathered at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park on Friday, August 27, 2010. With the sun shining and warm summer temperatures, the group gathered to launch the first ever USA-Canada Canoe Border Crossing as a peaceful demonstration of the rights stated and found in the Jay Treaty.

Local American Indian Movement of Michigan organizers Bryan Halfday and Helen Wolfe held the event as a way to increase public awareness about aboriginal treaty rights, create local community support and to educate people about inherent and ancestral rights. The event was planned as a part of a three day weekend of events all related to the Honoring Our Traditions Pow Wow which was held in Lincoln Park, Michigan’s Council Point Park also organized by the local Michigan American Indian Movement chapter.

Dennis Banks co-founder of the American Indian Movement participated in the canoe border crossing and stated that the ability and right to cross the river to Canada from the United States freely was “guaranteed in the Jay Treaty and it is our ancestral right to cross freely without harassment. This is our ancestral land of which we view per our history as one in the same with no borders. This is our home. We are sovereign.”

The canoe crossing started at the west end of Belle Isle Park whereupon the canoes paddled across the busy Detroit River to the Windsor, Ontario Peace Fountain. Once at the Windsor Peace Fountain, the canoe groups touched Canadian land and were greeted by a large group including singers from the Canadian American Friendship Center. A few onlookers with opposing views yelled at one canoe participant to “go home.” Andrea Pierce stated that she was surprised at seeing and hearing opposition to her implementing her aboriginal rights and responded to them respectfully that “she never crossed any borders, but that the borders had crossed her.”

Among the canoe participants were John Marcus, Andrea Pierce, Stephanie Bartley, Rob Henry, Tim Seneca, Dean Kicknosway, Julianne Horsfield, Robert Naimy and Chase Horsfield. When asked about the reason why he did the crossing, canoe participant Dean Kicknosway replied that I wanted the population to know that “we are a living people with a history, not a people from history.”

The canoes crossed just prior to having several large freighters pass through on the busy Detroit River. The Detroit River is home to one of the busiest International Ports, the Ambassador Bridge and a hub of US and Canadian Commerce.

When asked how the experience was Stephanie Bartley stated that “she will remember the day forever. It was beautiful and I am very emotional about doing this knowing my ancestors probably travelled this way a long time ago.”

The event ended at the East end of Belle Isle where people gathered to sing and celebrate a peaceful and safe crossing. It was discussed among the crowd and with Dennis Banks, Bryan Halfday and Helen Wolfe that the hope would be for this to become a yearly event. The hope is that more people may partake in the event next year. To commemorate the crossing Dennis Banks is having a custom embroidered patch made that says “Just the Beginning- Continuing Our Ancestral Past- Detroit to Windsor Jay Treaty Canoe Border Crossing.” If anybody would like to volunteer in coordinating and or promoting this event for next year please contact Bryan Halfday at Bryanhalf@aol.com


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