The 2010 World Lacrosse Championship is set to begin on Wednesday at the Manchester University Sports grounds, but as of right now, one team may be stuck at home over an international travel dispute with the host country. Why is this news? Because it isn’t just a small paper glitch that’s keeping things interesting, and it just so happens to involve a Native American nation. England has said that they will not let the team representing the Iroquois into the country on the backs of their own passports unless it can be proved that the U.S. will allow them to come back into its borders after the tournament concludes.
I’m not up to date completely on my Native American political conflicts, but what I do know is the following: the Iroquois have resided in America since about the 16th century, mainly in the Northeast (thank you fourth grade Social Studies and Wikipedia). More relevant to the story at hand – the tribe was very sporting, and invented a field game involving nets attached to sticks. The Iroquois Nationals pride themselves on representing the game as its creators, and want to come to the tournament on their own terms, and not by way of U.S. documents. Denise Waterman, member of the Iroquois Nationals board of directors, commented:
“We said we cannot do that. We’re our own people. We are a sovereign nation. We already have travel documents and we’re participating in an international tournament, and to participate in an international tournament you have to be a country. We’ve been recognized by this organization as a country with our own citizens, our own sovereignty, our own land, and flag and anthem and we’ve belonged to this organization since around 1990 and we’ve been sending teams out since that time.”
The team is set to meet at the British Consulate in New York City to prove their case and ensure them that the State Department would allow them to come back into the country. They practiced over the weekend at Staten Island college and still hope to be on their way by the time the tournament begins.
Update, 5:57 p.m. – U.S. Government Not Making Things Easier
This evening, it sounds like things haven’t gotten any better for the Iroquois Nationals attempt to get to England for the World Championships. According to an AP report, the U.S. government would only allow the team to come back into the country if they traveled on U.S. passports.
In years past, the Iroquois (who are ranked fourth in the world, by the way) have been able to travel on the passports issued through their confederacy and nation. However, as a U.S. State Department spokesman shared, a new law which went into effect since, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, is at the root of the issue:
The new rules require, among other things, that Americans carry passports or new 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,” [State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley said. “We are trying to help them get the appropriate travel documents so they can travel to this tournament.”
Some of the team are not happy about this development, citing the conflict of travelling with another country’s documents to represent their own, sovereign nation. The AP article noted that at least one player would rather not go than fly under a U.S. passport.
More as this develops.