Press Release

Gillibrand, Daines Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To End Blood Quantum Rule For Tribal Communities, Make Travel Across The U.S.-Canada Border Easier For Native Americans

Jul 1, 2024

70+ Year Old Policy Forces Tribal Border Communities To Carry Proof That They Are At Least 50% Native American To Cross The U.S.-Canada Border

Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Steve Daines (R-MT) announced their bipartisan Tribal Border Crossing Parity Act, legislation that would eliminate the 50% blood quantum requirement for members of federally recognized tribes in order to move freely between the U.S. and Canada. For over 70 years, federally-recognized tribes near the Canada border have been required to carry proof, obtained through the Department of the Interior (DOI), that they are at least 50% Native American when exercising their right to freely cross between the U.S. and Canada. The bipartisan legislation would eliminate the outdated 50% blood quantum requirement and allow tribal members to solely show their tribal ID to cross the U.S.-Canada border, ending the lengthy process of gathering information to secure a DOI blood quantum certificate and eliminating confusion for Customs and Border Protection and Canadian border authorities.

Obtaining a certificate to prove an individual’s Native American heritage through DOI can often be extremely challenging and complicated for tribal members. The process to obtain a certificate requires information and records many tribal members may not have, especially those whose ancestors were displaced. The blood quantum requirement also violates tribal sovereignty by interfering with a tribe’s right to determine its membership.

“For far too long, our border tribal communities have had to deal with the outdated, unjust requirement to prove their heritage just to travel across the border,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is time to change this outdated policy and make it easier for tribal members to exercise their treaty right to travel across the border. That’s why I’m proud to announce the Tribal Border Crossing Parity Act alongside Senator Daines to simplify border travel for Native Americans and protect them from discrimination, detainment, and harassment. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important bill passed.”

“For too long tribal members crossing Montana’s northern border have been subject to the discriminatory 50 percent blood quantum requirement that burdens Montanans and opens them up to unjust hard. It’s time we end this outdated policy and honor Tribal sovereignty,” said Senator Daines.

“Nia:wen/thank you to Senators Gillibrand and Daines for listening to our experiences at the border and supporting parity in border crossing rights for our tribal members. We have worked hard for over a decade to arrive here and this could not have been accomplished without working together through bipartisan efforts to change the Immigration and Nationality Act.  No American Indians born in Canada exercising their Jay Treaty rights should be required to show proof of sufficient blood quantum when entering the U.S.,” said Chiefs Beverly Cook, Michael Conners and Ron LaFrance.

Representatives Russ Fulcher (R-ID-01) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) lead companion legislation in the House.

The bill is supported by the St. Regis-Mohawk Tribe of New York, the Jay Treaty Border Alliance, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Council of Urban Indian Health.

For the bill text, please click here.