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The Imaginary Line


People today know that a trip to Canada has become more involved, requiring more planning with proper identification, especially upon the return to the United States. Not that long ago, Canadians and Americans traveling to the neighboring country merely had to state where they were born and why they were visiting. But that changed after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Today’s travelers might be surprised to know that at one time, it was simply a matter of driving uncontested across the border. On this date in 1922, an article in the Pioneer Express of Pembina referred to the border as “the imaginary boundary line.” That year, Canadians came to Pembina in large numbers to help celebrate the Fourth of July. The Highland Kiltie Band came from Winnipeg to march in the parade, and Americans of Scottish descent traveled long distances to enjoy the music of the bagpipes. The town of Emerson, Manitoba built a float and won the prize for the most attractive float in the parade. No one minded that an Independence Day prize was awarded to Canadians.

But the border was not always a peaceful topic. There was contention between the United States and Great Britain following the Revolution. The two countries finally agreed on the 49th parallel as the border from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. But the matter of who controlled Oregon wasn’t settled until 1846. There are some oddities along the border. Part of Minnesota juts up into Canada. Visiting that part of Minnesota requires a boat trip, or traveling through Canada. Vancouver Island belongs to Canada except for a little corner that is part of the United States. Children living there travel through Canada to go to school.

At 5,500 miles, the border between the United States and Canada remains the longest undefended border in the world.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


Pioneer Express. “The Fourth of July Aftermath.” Pembina, ND. 14 July, 1922.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.” "https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/western-hemisphere-travel-initiative" https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/western-hemisphere-travel-initiative Accessed 7 June, 2017.

The History Channel. “U.S.-Canadian border established.” "http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-canadian-border-established" http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-canadian-border-established Accessed 7 June, 2017.