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15 Jul, 2010 23:37

Iroquois lacrosse team stranded in NYC over passport dispute

The Iroquois National Lacrosse team was set to compete again as a sovereign nation at the World Lacrosse Championships in England, however a passport dispute with the US and now UK may prevent them from participating.

The team members possess passports issued by the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee Confederacy a group of six Native American nations in the US and Canada. Originally the US said they would not allow the team to reenter the US without a proper US passport, they have however been granted a one-time waiver by the State Department to return home. The UK however is now refusing to grant the team visas because they do not officially recognize the Iroquois Confederacy passports.

They have been asked to obtain US or Canadian passports in order to enter the UK. However, they refuse to do so based on their right to self determination and their own national pride.

Percy Abrams, the Iroquois lacrosse team's executive director said this was an issue of national identity and a matter of nationality.

We [Iroquois Confederacy] have been around for over 1000 years. We’ve certainly preempted the American government or Canadian government. We have a right to self determination. We have a right to present our own passport,” said Abrams.

Abrams explained that being able to present their own passport is part of their nationality and their own identity and they are asking the US and UK to accept their identity and self determination.

It’s a matter of national pride,” said Abrams. “This is the document that we wish to carry for this game. This is our choice and our right to do it and we should be able to carry this and travel about. Let me just tell you, we have been traveling for over 30 years with this document. We have traveled to Great Britain numerous times.”

The government of the Iroquois Confederacy has traveled internationally in the past and participated in forums around the world in an official capacity carrying Iroquois Confederacy passports, added Abrams.

Many have argued that the UK’s reasoning is based on security concerns. However, Abrams explained that they were originally told by the British government that they could enter the UK if they had a letter from the US State Department allowing them to travel on their passports and also agreed to undertake finger printing and biometric recording for security purposes. The team agreed.

The team is ranked fourth in the world and has now been forced to default on their first match against England. The team hopes to resolve the issue before their next scheduled match on July 17.