Posted on January 21, 2008

Immigration Case Hinges on Degree of Indian Blood

Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times, January 19, 2008

A government attorney told an immigration judge on Friday that a native Canadian man claiming indigenous treaty rights to the U.S. lacks sufficient Indian blood to qualify for those rights.

Peter Roberts, a 54-year-old dentist from Tsawwassen, B.C., claims he is 50 percent Campbell River Indian—the son of a full-blooded Indian father and a white mother—and is thus entitled to live and work in the U.S. and pass freely across its borders under what’s known as the Jay Treaty.


Roberts’ attorney, Len Saunders, said it was not uncommon for some Indians decades ago to deny their lineage to avoid discrimination and that Campbell River band documents issued to Roberts show he is in fact 50 percent native Canadian.


The Jay Treaty of 1794 allowed native North Americans free trade and travel between the U.S. and Canada, then a territory of Great Britain. Their rights were later restated in U.S. immigration laws and include the right to live and work in the U.S.

Because they are not immigrants, Jay Treaty natives don’t need a U.S. green card, but they qualify for one, and many, like Roberts, get one to make it easier to invoke their treaty rights.