Hands Across the Border Project


Over the centuries, France, Great Britain and the United States have determined what is now the border that divides the U.S. and Canada. In addition, this border has divided tribal nations, separated families and made inter-tribal trade difficult or impossible. The results have been damaging—negatively affecting culture, custom, language and self-esteem.

This land was “discovered” and divided by foreign explorers and settlers. The original inhabitants were assaulted, enslaved and starved. Tribes were pushed into the territory of other tribes eventually to be incarcerated into the reservation system en masse. During the years of assimilation, many children were kidnapped and forced into boarding schools to abandon their culture, spirituality and language, forever affecting the family ties and the safety and security for the future.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have agreed upon a Pass System that allows some tribal members from Canada to freely cross the border live and work with or without a passport. Although a possible attempt at border control and flow, it further exemplifies the breakup of families and culture along this divide. A tribal member must obtain documentation stating a blood quantum of 50% or more in order to qualify for the INAC card. This is a challenge for most families, because in these modern times many families are of mixed tribe or race and lack the expected blood percentages.

There is currently a movement among the Native Nations to rewrite the Pass Laws to make them more realistic and sensitive to the unique situation and customs of the Native people.  At its core are respect, self-determination and inclusion.

Respect is long overdue for the First Nations of what is now North America. We cannot turn back the clock, but we can move forward to help provide a platform for these tribes to actualize their own futures for their communities. There are several issues and agencies at the negotiating table; Federal, State and Tribal governments and now big business, as highlighted by the Dakota Access and Trans-Mountain pipelines. We would like to do what we can to help amplify the voices of the Native people in order for them to organize and participate in these decisions for their own futures.  http://ptla.org/wabanaki/which-documents-will-you-need-us-border-under-new-homeland-security-rules



The Journey

This 17-day journey (June 9-25, 2017) will include native and non-native people.  We will travel and set up our mobile community in Native communities in the US and Canada.  Native participants (Blackfeet, Chippewa, Nez Perce, Piikanni, T’lingit) and members of other Tribal Nations will help determine the tone, shape and tasks of our journey.  Native and non-native participants will co-create the project.

We will be camping and presenting in Browning, Mt (Blackfeet Nation), Brocket, Alberta (Piikanni Nation) and nearby non-native communities. 

We will mutually share education and entertainment through performances and workshops given by local people, as well as by Chautauquans. Workshops may include explorations of permaculture, gardening, composting, meditation, and individual health and healing arts; native and non-native crafts and creative arts; imaginative and collaborative arts such as writing, singing, juggling, sculpture, and painting; language arts, both native and non-native; historical, or contextual topics; and others springing from our passions such as juggling, clowning, and quilt-making that inspire self-expression, connection and building community. Indigenous-centered presentations will be offered to promote healing, reconciliation, and both inter and intra-community cultural exchange.

We will tent camp and have a mobile kitchen and shower. Our caravan will include “The Bluebird” (the Chautauqua bus), an equipment truck, a motor home, a kitchen truck and kitchen trailer, and a few cars. Participants will share everyday living tasks, including such things as preparing meals, packing the truck, cleaning up after ourselves, and recycling our trash.



HAB’s Intention

The intention of this journey is to stand in solidarity with the Tribal Nations involved, by bringing attention and shining a light on these divided sister tribes.  We are aware of prejudices created by misinformation and isolation between the native and nearby non-native communities.

Inspired by values emphasized at Standing Rock we will aspire to a culture that honors and embodies prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility, and wisdom. Our intention will be to be indigenous centered, to be useful, to build something new, and to bring home with us what we learn.



Important things to know:

All participants need a valid Passport and the legal ability to cross the US-Canada border

No alcohol or drugs.  We will be staying in Native Nations and in honor and respect for the tribal communities and tribal participants; this will be a clean and sober journey.

This project is limited to 40 adults (children are not counted in this number).  With this number, we hope to create an intimate and close-knit traveling community.  We cannot invite everyone who applies, and regret any disappointment this may cause. We welcome involvement from anyone not making the journey who is committed and wants work on this Project, as there are many ways to be involved. We value difference and different perspectives and believe that we are richer for this multiplicity as part of a shared, supportive and nourishing community.

All participants are expected to engage in the creation of this project.  There will be face-to-face planning meetings in Port Townsend.  Minutes will be sent out to all via email.  If you are unable to come to meetings, your email input will not only be welcome but necessary to the project’s evolution. 



If the description and intention of the Hands Across the Border Project inspires and attracts you, we invite you to fill out an Application.  If you would like to donate to this project, please visit our GoFundMe page. Thank you for your interest.