NIAGARA FALLS – The 87th Annual Border Crossing Celebration commenced on Saturday July 18 at Oakes Park in Niagara Falls.
As the people attempted to cross the border however, there was a delay at customs. Vice President Bob Douglas of the IDLA addressed the issue at the border, as Douglas and Brian Isaacs were both in the lead of the parade.
“I just want to make sure that people are aware of exactly what happened. It wasn’t a mistake on the bridges errors, it wasn’t a mistake on the Indian Defense League’s errors, it was a mistake on the organization that was supposed to do the input for where we form the parade. If they got there at quarter to eleven like they were supposed to, not one single solitary part of this would have taken place,” said Douglas, explaining that it had nothing to do with Pan Am security as many suspect.
He explained that the IDLA has had meetings with Homeland Security, Canada Border Protection Agency and the British Commissioner prior to holding the celebration. He explained that four years ago the IDLA fought against having to register names and birth dates before crossing the border in their parade, but lost due to the worry of terrorism.
“How we were able to solve the problem is a lady out of the meeting chose to do the input, so the last year and the year before worked fine. She showed up prior to where we were setting the parade up; she showed up, she used her computer, she took everybody’s name and date of birth down, and then we started out with ribbon but now we use pipe cleaners for the participants to put on their regalia, so when they walked through we would know they were registered,” said Douglas.
However, the lady named “Stephanie,” called the night before to let Douglas know she would not be available for this year’s celebration, and explained that two others would be on their way to take her place the next day.
Douglas said, “Well, at quarter after eleven, no one was there yet.”
He further explained that the Niagara Police Department had directed traffic, the lane on the bridge was stopped, and some people participating in the parade had booths they needed to return to, with each participant wanting to continue the parade.
“I’m hearing two different stories from the same agency. No one has yet called me to tell me the truth, because no one wants to absorb the responsibility of the mishap that took place,” said Douglas. “So, in the meantime our parade people were getting upset, they were getting ready to storm right through. The CBP people were scared, I know they were. They were mad and scared because I was screaming at them, saying ‘No, why can’t we just hold up our status cards and go? At least you know we’re all Indians,’” said Douglas. Douglas explained that he told the CBP agent that once the computer arrived, the border would have their registration list. Finally, the agent brought her supervisor to speak to him.
Douglas continued saying, “I said ‘listen, if you turn around and look behind you, you got a lot of people standing there at that wicket. And if you take a look, a lot of them have cell phones in their hands.’ I said ‘this is our inherent right, under the Jay Treaty. From 365 days, boiled down to one day and you want to take that one day away from us? In about fifteen minutes, you’re gonna have an awful lot of people here and it’s gonna cause something that you don’t want, and you can’t handle.’ And I said ‘it’ll just get worse every year, and my advice to you is let ’em just show their status card as they walk by, and let’s call it a day.’”
Thankfully, the border agreed with Douglas and allowed the parade to carry on.
After their arrival at the park, the scheduled Miss IDLA competition and Smoke Dance competition began.
Speakers from the Indian Defence League spoke, bringing forth attention to issues at customs during their crossing, while tying in acknowledgement to both the Jay Treaty and continuation of exercising the right to cross borders in North America. A speaker representing the U19 Girls Field Lacrosse Team spoke as well.
After her two year reign, Amber Lee passed her crown on to Kyleigh Farmer from Six Nations. Farmer scored the highest out of three categories; interviewing, public speaking and personal introduction, and will be representing as Miss IDLA until July of 2016.