The HDC is the official voice of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy) on border crossing documentation issues. The Grand Council has mandated the HDC to work with both the United States and Canadian Governments regarding the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Specifically, the HDC is obligated to interface with the US and Canadian Governments regarding the political and technical development of the new Haudenosaunee ID cards and passports.
The new Haudenosaunee identification cards will meet and exceed international standards for travel documents. The cards will be secure and they will be part of a secure system. The main purpose of these documents is to ease border crossing for Haudenosaunee citizens, since Canada and the United States have stiffened their security requirements.
The Haudenosaunee Documentation Committee has been negotiating with the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that the new cards will be an acceptable form of identification for entering the United States. We have also been meeting with the Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration Canada, for the same purpose on the Canadian side. There have been rumours that the cards will disclose confidential information, or a person’s DNA, or other biometric information. This is not true: the cards contain the kind of information that is in an international passport. At this point, we can’t guarantee that the cards will be accepted by the United States and Canada. What we can say is: if you don’t want one of these cards, don’t want a U.S. or Canadian passport, and don’t want enhanced forms of identification from those countries, then you should be prepared not to travel outside the country. Meanwhile, discussion continues about clarifying who is a Haudenosaunee citizen, for the purpose of the issuance of a document confirming that.
Our passports have become a casualty of a tighter world security environment. The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team was prevented from competing in the world championships in England in 2010 because the United Kingdom maintained that the existing passports did not meet security requirements. New Haudenosaunee passports will meet those requirements, but their recognition by other nations will continue to be a challenge.
Fewer countries – and airlines – are recognizing them as valid travel documents. If you are considering international travel using a Haudenosaunee passport, you should be careful to contact your Chief and begin planning to secure the necessary permissions several months before your travel date. For the time being, the passports will continue to be issued only through Onondaga. We expect the secure system supporting the identification cards will also be used for the passports.
The Jay Treaty of 1794 and the Treaty of Ghent of 1815 do contain explicit language recognizing and protecting Indian border crossing rights. The United States has implemented these rights for people – but not for goods. Under U.S. immigration law, a person who is at least 51% North American Indian by blood has the same right to enter and reside and work in the United States as a U.S. citizen. This is not the same thing as having “dual nationality.” Canada, on the other hand, has not implemented the Crown’s promises in these treaties that Britain made with the United States. We consider that, for Haudenosaunee purposes, there are both Aboriginal rights to travel through all of Haudenosaunee territory, and treaty rights to do so. Treaty councils in 1795 and 1815 confirm the Jay Treaty and Treaty of Ghent promises.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has affirmed, also provides for the rights of Indigenous peoples affected by international borders. Yet there are about two hundred Haudenosaunee families who are being denied full rights as a result of deficiencies in Canadian immigration laws. We have met with representatives of the Canadian Department of Immigration, Department of Justice, and Department of Aboriginal Affairs. We have proposed a simple change in the Immigration Act that would remedy the great majority of the problems. Our next meeting would be with senior Aboriginal Affairs officials.