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Jurisdiction, Sovereignties and Akwesasne: Shiprider and the Re-Crafting of Canada-US Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement

  • Anna C. Pratt (a1) and Jessica Templeman (a2)

Against the historical backdrop of the sinking of the Canadian rum-running schooner the I’m Alone by the US Coast Guard in 1929, this paper examines the re-crafting of maritime jurisdictional practices in the 2000s through the Canada-US Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Program known as Shiprider. Thinking jurisdictionally and taking seriously the materiality of the water, we explore the significance of Shiprider’s patrols in the local context of Kaniatarowano’on:we (St. Lawrence River) which flows through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, an indigenous border nation cleaved by the Canada-US international border where local communities contend with and continue to refuse imposed colonial settler boundaries.

Dans le contexte historique du naufrage de la goélette de contrebande d’alcool canadienne I’m Alone, par la Garde côtière américaine en 1929, cet article examine la réorganisation des pratiques de compétence maritime dans les années 2000 par le biais des opérations transfrontalières maritimes d’application de la loi, aussi connues sous le nom d’Opérations Shiprider. Réfléchissant aux juridictions et en prenant en compte la matérialité de l’eau, nous explorons l’importance des patrouilles de Shiprider dans le contexte local de Kaniatarowano’on:we (Fleuve Saint-Laurent) qui traverse le territoire mohawk d’Akwesasne, une nation autochtone frontalière traversée par la frontière internationale canado-américaine dans laquelle les collectivités locales luttent et continuent de refuser les limites coloniales imposées aux colons.

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We wish to thank the Akwesasronon who took the time to speak with us, to patiently explain the history of the Kanien’kehá:ka and the Kaniatarowano’on:we, and to discuss ongoing concerns about contested sovereignties and jurisdictions in Akwesasne. We are also grateful to the members of the USCG, CBP, and RCMP who graciously agreed to contribute to this research and who spent many hours answering our questions about Shiprider and maritime enforcement. This study benefitted enormously from the research assistance and expertise of Nathan Prier and from the extremely thoughtful comments and helpful suggestions provided by the anonymous reviewers. We want to note that any errors and misunderstandings are entirely our own. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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