By Felicia Fonseca
But some say the team's adamant position has gone too far.
Michael Smith, a Navajo living on the Southwestern reservation, said it's important to note that the Iroquois live in the U.S. on land he and his father fought to protect as Marines.
The Iroquois land isn't recognized globally as a country, so the team's efforts have been almost futile, he said.
"You're flying overseas," he said. "Get your U.S. passport and go kick some butt."
Luanna Bear, a member of the Tulsa Creek Indian Community, part of the larger Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma, said anyone who travels abroad should have the proper documents.
"A lot of tribes don't want to lose their identity, so that's what they're trying to keep," said Bear, 48. "But I believe you have to follow all laws."
Smith has kind of missed the point of tribal sovereignty. The Iroquois team was saying they should be recognized as a country or the equivalent. They were protesting precisely for that principle.
They deemed the principle more important than playing games. Judging by the responses I saw on Facebook, most Indians were cheering them on. As I said, I think they'll receive some accolades to make up for missing the lacrosse championship.
Valerie Taliman, who was helping the team, says the media published more than 2,000 stories on the subject. That's a huge amount of publicity for the cause. It's arguably worth the loss of a few lacrosse games.
Iroquois passports are improper?
As for Bear's comments, most countries have deemed the Iroquois passports "proper" for the last 30 years. The team obviously thought the US and Britain would accept them this time too.
What's proper is a matter of custom, precedence, and morality, among other things. It's a matter of the spirit, not the letter, of the law. We probably could identify thousands of laws that people violate because they're arbitrary or unfair, even if they're technically "proper."
Besides, the US has to "follow all laws" too. And treaties, including those with Indian tribes, are the "supreme law of the land." I don't know if there's a treaty that covers Haudenosaunee travel, but one is easy to imagine. Any treaty that declares the US will respect Haudenosaunee culture or customs implicitly grants them the right to travel without US passports.
In a just world, we'd treat such a treaty as the gospel. It would supersede Homeland Security regulations because, again, it's the supreme law of the land.
For more on the subject, see Developing Tribal Passports and Iroquois Team Fights for Sovereignty.