Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



In March of 1927 Paul K. Diabo, a thirty-six-year-old Mohawk ironworker from Kahnawake (Mohawk Nation Territory), Quebec, appeared before Judge Oliver B. Dickinson in federal court in Philadelphia to contest his deportation to Canada. According to the Department of Immigration, which had arrested him a year earlier, Diabo had violated the Immigration Act of 1924 and should be considered an illegal alien. As a member of the Rotinonhsionni (Iroquois) Confederacy, Diabo contended that he had a right to cross the international border without interference and restriction—a right, he argued, that had been recognized by the Jay Treaty of 1794. Diabo’s trial and subsequent appeal by the Immigration Department in 1928 became an important test of Rotinonhsionni sovereignty and treaty rights. As such, it drew the attention and mobilized the support of Rotinonhsionni people in Canada and the United States and contributed in significant ways to political and cultural revitalization within the Confederacy and his home community of Kahnawake.