Chosen Futures
  • Passports, Identity, Security

    July 22, 2010

    The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team is missing the 2010 FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England.  They wanted to be there, they were prepared to be there, but an international disagreement about sovereignty and security kept them in North America.  No one wanted that result, but everyone had principles to defend.  Everyone stuck to their principles, and in the unintended consequences of their principles, everyone lost out.

    The Iroquois Nationals team travels on passports issued by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which includes members who live in Canada as well as members who live within the United States.  If the team had arrived at the Championships, they would have needed to present these passports from the country the team represents.  The last time the team travelled overseas for a competition was in 2002, when the Championships were held in Australia.  At the time, their passports were accepted by all the nations involved. 

    But international agreements have changed since 2002.  The Haudenosaunee passports don’t meet new security standards, such as holograms and microchips, which are intended to prevent identity fraud.  Team members would be eligible for passports from Canada or the United States, but they consider that travelling on such documents would be a denial of their preferred identity as Iroquois.  (Go to http://bit.ly/aooGLq for the Haudenosaunee position on travel rights.)

    For their part, British officials said that they would not issue visas unless the governments of Canada and the United States provided letters guaranteeing that the players would be permitted to re-enter these countries after the games.  The US State Department did issue such a letter, carefully specifying that it was a one-time document prompted by special circumstances, but the Canadian government did not issue a similar letter and the United Kingdom did not issue visas.  So the Haudenosaunee did not travel overseas and they have not been part of the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships.

    "It really is a shame, as we feel like we're losing a connection with the sport's heritage," says Neil Goulding, spokesman for the Federation of International Lacrosse.  "The Iroquois had been due to open the tournament with an ancient blessing ceremony, where sacred tobacco is burnt and prayers are chanted.  Now the games are just going to start with a few words from Manchester’s Lord Mayor."  [from aolnews.com, July 15, 2010]

    The Iroquois have been playing lacrosse longer than anyone except maybe the Hurons, and their tradition of democracy is one of the oldest in the world.  There was minimal risk of team members being stranded in England had they travelled on the tribal passports.  The Haudenosaunee are even well along in the process of developing new passports which will conform to the new international standards, so that they can assert their sovereign identity in ways compatible with modern security technology.  If all parties had made it possible for them to travel to the Championships this year, the issues of identity and security would have ended up as forgotten footnotes to the larger matter of becoming a world society which honors and protects everyone. 

     



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© 2019 Deborah Gavrin Frangquist, Chosen Futures