[News] Iroquois Lacrosse Team Trapped in U.S.?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 14 10:04:30 EDT 2010

Iroquois Lacrosse Team Trapped in U.S.?

Native American Team Could Miss Championships in U.K. Over New Travel 
Documentation Rules


(AP)  The teams participating in the World Lacrosse Championships in 
England represent 30 nations, from Argentina to Latvia to South Korea 
to Iroquois.

The Iroquois helped invent lacrosse and, in a rare example of 
international recognition of American Indian sovereignty, they 
participate at every tournament as a separate nation. But they might 
not be at this year's world championship tournament because of a 
dispute over the validity of their passports.

The 23 players have passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy, a 
group of six Indian nations overseeing land that stretches from 
upstate New York into Ontario, Canada.

The U.S. government says it will only let players back into the 
country if they have U.S. passports, a team official said. The 
British government, meanwhile, won't give the players visas if they 
cannot guarantee they'll be allowed to go home, the official said.

Iroquois team members born within U.S. borders have been offered U.S. 
passports, but the players refuse to carry them, because they see the 
government-issued documents as an attack on their identity, said 
Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation who works 
with the team.

"It's about sovereignty, citizenship and self-identification," said 
Frichner, who also is the North American Regional Representative to 
the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The Iroquois have used their own passports in the past, but State 
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the new dispute can be traced 
to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which went into effect 
last year. The new rules require, among other things, that Americans 
carry passports or high-tech documents to cross the country's borders.

"Since they last traveled on their own passports, the requirements in 
terms of the kind of documents that are necessary to facilitate 
travel within and outside the hemisphere have changed," Crowley said. 
"We are trying to help them get the appropriate travel documents so 
they can travel to this tournament."

Tribes' efforts to meet the new security requirements have been 
ongoing. A group of American Indian leaders requested funding from 
the Department of Homeland Security in 2009 to develop cards that 
would comply with the new rules, according to an agency document. 
Idaho's Kootenai tribe and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed 
last year to develop the first enhanced tribal card acceptable under 
the new guidelines.

Asked whether the Iroquois passport could be acceptably modified to 
meet the stricter standards, Crowley referred questions to the 
Department of Homeland Security.

That agency declined to discuss the specifics of the case. Matt 
Chandler, a Homeland Security spokesman, said his agency was working 
with the Department of State and others to resolve the issue.

One Iroquois player, Brett Bucktooth, said he would rather miss the 
tournament than travel under a U.S. passport.

"That's the people we are, and that's our identity," he said.

Bucktooth, 27, also spoke of his deep cultural and personal 
connection with lacrosse - first played by Iroquois and Huron, 
perhaps as early as 1,000 years ago.

"My father put a wooden lacrosse stick into my crib when I was a 
baby, and now that I have a son, I put a lacrosse stick into his 
crib," he said. "In our culture, we all start playing lacrosse young."

Bucktooth and other Iroquois see lacrosse as a gift to the tribes 
from their creator. Lacrosse was played by American Indians as a 
preparation for war and "to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, and 
develop strong, virile men," according to US Lacrosse, the American 
governing body of the sport.

Today, the Iroquois team is ranked No. 4 by the Federation of 
International Lacrosse and represents the Haudenosaunee - an Iroquois 
Confederacy of the Oneida, Seneca, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Cayuga and 
Onondaga nations. About 90,000 Haudenosaunee, or "the people of the 
longhouse," live today in New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and the 
Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, said Onondaga chief Oren Lyons.

The Iroquois team was scheduled to play at the 2010 World Lacrosse 
Championship that starts Thursday in Manchester, England.

The Iroquois team and its entourage of 25 - coaches, staff and family 
members - would have to leave New York by Tuesday evening at the 
latest to participate in the tournament, which is staged every four years.

The team has been traveling on Iroquois passports for the past 20 
years, and Iroquois passport-holders have been using them to go 
abroad since 1977, said Denise Waterman, a member of the team's board 
of directors. Within the last year, colleagues used their Iroquois 
passports to travel to Japan and Sweden without any problems, she said.

In the past, U.S. immigration officials accepted the Iroquois 
passports when they obtained visas - including for trips to Britain 
in 1985 and 1994, and as recently as 2002 to Australia. The 2006 
tournament was held in Canada.

Members of the Western Shoshonee and Hopi nations also have traveled 
internationally using similar passports, some within the last few 
months, said Valerie Taliman, a publicist for the Iroquois team.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wrote a letter to Secretary of State 
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet 
Napolitano on Tuesday, urging them to help the team reach its destination.

"As a governor of a state with a significant Native American 
population, I know many tribes and pueblos will watch carefully how 
these young competitors are treated by the administration," he wrote.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., reached out to White House officials 
on Monday on behalf of the team, Frichner said.

Last week, the Iroquois team learned from a State Department official 
that the U.S. government would not allow it to return on its 
Haudenosaunee-issued passports, according to Frichner. The British 
Consulate in New York said it could only issue visas after receiving 
"a written confirmation from the Department of Homeland Security that 
you can leave the country and come back," she said.

Team officials went to the British Consulate in New York on Monday to 
reapply for the visas and plead their case, but were turned away. 
Later in the day, the English Lacrosse Association said in a 
statement it expected "the Iroquois will arrive on time for the 
opening ceremony and games."

After fighting off attempts at assimilation for more than a century, 
issues of sovereignty strike a deep chord for many Native Americans, 
said Dean Kotlowski, a history professor at Salisbury University in 
Maryland who specializes in American Indian policy.

"What's at stake is their culture, their identity, their tribes, 
their reservations," he said. "They've seen diminishment ... of their 
population, threats to their way of life."

The Iroquois team was in Manhattan on Monday as it awaited news of 
its status. It has been training on Staten Island in New York City, 
using the football field at Wagner College.

"We're anxious but optimistic," team manager Ansley Jemison said. "I 
don't think a lacrosse team full of world-class athletes poses much 
of a threat to homeland security."

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