225 Years in the Making: How Canadian Universities Honour the Jay Treaty Through Cross-Border Tuition Policies

Michael O’Shea | 2022

Translation into Cree by Cameron Robertson: Cree Writer and storyteller.

Universities on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border can act on their historical Jay Treaty responsibilities to support Indigenous student success. In the last seven years, several Canadian universities have adopted policies that extend domestic tuition rates to Indigenous students living in the United States (U.S.), exempting them from international tuition fees. In doing so, the institutions referenced their responsibilities under the Jay Treaty of 1794, which recognizes the pre-existing right of Indigenous peoples to freely cross the U.S.-Canada border and engage in trade. While the United States does recognize the Jay Treaty — albeit with blood quantum and documentation requirements — the Canadian government does not. This brief policy explains how and why these universities adopted these policies and how other universities in Canada may follow suit, bringing their actions in line with their commitments to reconciliation and decolonization in the Trust and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2015) era.

Cree was chosen as a language of translation as it is one of the most commonly spoken Indigenous languages on Turtle Island (North America) —  despite centuries of colonial suppression. University of Saskatchewan, one of the case studies in the policy brief, is also located on Treaty Six territory and Homeland of the Métis. Treaty Six was signed between the British Queen and bands of Cree and Stoney First Nations. The author’s hope is that this translation is only the start in academia of funding and normalizing translation, appropriately and respectfully, into the many Indigenous languages of Turtle Island.

Michael O’Shea is a higher education practitioner and scholar. As a PhD candidate studying under Dr. Stephanie Waterman (Onondaga, Turtle Clan) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, his research explores how Canadian universities can act on their historic Treaty obligations to better support Indigenous students across the U.S.-Canada border. He has been awarded a Fulbright student award and SSHRC graduate award for his research.

225 Years in the Making: How Canadian Universities Honour the Jay Treaty Through Cross-Border Tuition Policies