July 16, 2010

Iroquois team bows out of tournament

Iroquois Defeated by Passport Dispute

By Thomas KaplanThe 23 players on the Iroquois national lacrosse team expected to spend this week vying for a world championship.

Instead, they spent Friday night divvying up their gear in the driveway outside a Hilton hotel here, having officially declared defeat in their weeklong dispute with the British government over whether they should be allowed to travel using their tribal passports.

“I felt it was coming, but I didn’t want to believe it until I actually heard it,” said Ron Cogan, 31, who played defense for the team.

The team, known as the Nationals, forfeited its first game Thursday night against England. Unless the team departed for the tournament by Friday evening, it would have had no choice but to forfeit its next game, scheduled for Saturday afternoon against Japan.

“You can’t go into a world competition and ask a team to tie one hand behind its back,” said Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation, one of the six nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy.
What the fight was about, again:That broader issue of the validity of tribal passports—which experts in American Indian law say have been allowed for international travel for several decades, even if the letter of the law forbids them to be used as replacements for United States passports—remains unresolved.

The National Congress of American Indians wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday to urge him to allow the Iroquois to travel. Jefferson Keel, the lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation and the National Congress’s president, said in a telephone interview that the fight over the passports was indicative of skepticism in some parts of the world about the sovereignty of Indian nations.
And:“We fought a battle that was bigger than lacrosse,” said Marty Ward, a 25-year-old goalie. “It brought indigenous people back to the forefront. It let everyone know that we’re still here—we haven’t gone anywhere.”Comment:   How about if we forbid any British citizens from entering the US until they prove they've upheld all their Haudenosaunee treaties? That'll teach 'em.

I get a sense that Indian country will be treating these lacrosse players as heroes. That's some compensation for missing the tournament.

For more on the subject, see Iroquois Team Fights for Sovereignty and Iroquois Team Forfeits First Game.

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