July 15, 2010

Iroquois team fights for sovereignty

More on the travails of the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team. First, the history of British-Iroquois relations:

Doug George-Kanentiio:  Iroquois abandoned by British--againOur mutual history began in 1664 when England assumed control over the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, renaming it New York. The English authorities knew that if they were to succeed in establishing their own colony they must secure an alliance with the most powerful Native entity in the northeast, the Iroquois Confederacy.

Formed in the 12th century, the Confederacy was a league of united nations, created to resolve disputes, create a society based on the rule of law and promote trade and commerce across national borders.

For the next 119 years the Confederacy protected the English from Native intrusions while acting as a check against the French to the north.

The English, in return, formally acknowledged the Confederacy as an independent state fully capable, under the law of nations, to enter into treaty with other sovereign entities.

The Iroquois saved the English during the Seven Years War by providing them with vital military information as well as providing front line fighters. Our ancestors fought at Ft. Niagara, Quebec, Ft. George and Oswego. Without us, the French would have secured their colony and expanded into the continental interior.

We carried on with our alliance when the Americans decided to rebel against the crown. For this, we were driven from our ancestral lands, had our communities destroyed by George Washington's scorched earth campaign in 1779 and watched in despair as hundreds of our people starved to death in the following winter.

Yet we held our end of the treaties even when the English abandoned us when they conceded to American independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Almost all of the Mohawks were forced into exile along the St. Lawrence River but, while we had learned not to trust the English we still maintained our national status and expected the Crown to act accordingly.
The recent history of international travel by the Iroquois:

The Haudenosaunee 'Right of Return'

By Steven NewcombFor some 30 years, the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), often known as the Six Nations Confederation, have been accustomed to traveling internationally from and back to North America on Haudenosaunee passports. Now, however, the United States government has evidently taken issue with the Haudenosaunee passports.

Even under the George W. Bush administration, the United States government did not attempt to stop the Haudenosaunee from traveling internationally on Haudenosaunee passports. Now it appears that the U.S. government may have shifted its position. Under President Barack Obama's watch, it appears that the United States is not going to honor Haudenosaunee passports despite Obama's statements during his election campaign in Indian country that he was going to respect the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and indigenous nations such as the Haudenosaunee.

It is conceivable that the United States might try to say that the Haudenosaunee players traveling on their own national passports is an issue of "national security" for the United States. Yet to make this argument in any credible manner, the U.S. government would have to explain how Haudenosaunee lacrosse players pose any sort of threat to the United States by traveling on Haudenosaunee passports. There is no such argument to be made because, quite simply put, international travel by lacrosse players on Haudenosaunee passports poses no national security threat to the United States.
Why the Iroquois team won't travel under US passports, as everyone wants them to:

Off the Reservation:  Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team vs. America

By Jed MoreyTo date the confederacy has been able to cope with the issue of international travel because most countries outside of the U.S. recognize the sovereign status of Indian nations and the informal U.S. policy has thus far been to let sleeping dogs lie. But homeland security and big brother have made the issue of the Haudenosaunee passport more opaque and left U.S. officials with a conundrum.

On the surface it didn’t appear to be such a big deal. But in Indian country, everything comes at a price. If the team had capitulated and agreed to accept U.S. passports to travel abroad they would have established yet another dangerous precedent in U.S./Indian relations. Acquiescing to this solution would essentially have ceded the issue of sovereign recognition on a very significant level. And while it may seem innocuous, I can assure you it is not. Every step closer to acknowledging that tribal lands are nothing more than bizarre extensions of U.S. territory is a step closer to losing the fundamental rights of indigenous nations. This is more than a lacrosse tournament.
Comment:  As Valerie Taliman said:Who knew the game of lacrosse would be educating millions of people about Iroquois identity, the right to self-determination and treaties? They are a generation of young men willing to stand up for what they believe in.For more on the subject, see Iroquois Team Forfeits First Game and Iroquois Kept from Lacrosse Championship.

Below:  "Percy Abrams, executive director for the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team, shows his Iroquois Nation Haudenosaunee passport during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, July 14, 2010. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton granted the 23-member team a one-time waiver to travel to England for the Lacrosse World Championships after they were barred from using Iroquois passports." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

1 comment:

Stephen Bridenstine said...

My favorite part about this whole story was hearing about it on the BBC World Service and having the British commentator attempt to pronounce "Iroquois" (It's Ear-a-Kwas right?)