On the Iroquois Lacrosse Team, Sovereignty, and Sport

Last week we watched with interest as a significant story unfolded with the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team. As they attempted to travel to the UK for international competition, they were entangled in a visa dispute. Although the team traveled internationally just a couple years ago using their Iroquois passports, British authorities refused to admit them to the UK this time around without a written guarantee that the US would welcome them back to New York on those same passports. The thing is, travel regulations have changed since that last trip (unbeknownst to the team), and US authorities now require a US passport. As the team waited in limbo in a hotel in New York, missing their first, then their second scheduled game in the tournament, what began as a logistical snag quickly turned into a debate about Native sovereignty.

Among the ironies of this story–and there are many–is the purpose of the trip: to compete internationally in a sport that originated with Native Americans. Our partners at First Peoples, New Directions offer an introduction to a new UNC Press book by Michael Zogry, Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game, and provide a roundup of some of the media coverage this episode has generated. You can read their post here.

Today, news from Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY):

With the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team missing their first world championship game in England due to the British government’s refusal to recognize their Haudenosaunee Confederacy-issued passports, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work with Native American leaders and the Canadian and UK governments to develop internationally-recognized travel documents for the Iroquois nation as well as other tribes and nations in North America in order to prevent any Native American groups from being denied travel abroad in the future.

You can read Gillibrand’s letter to Clinton here. We’ll keep our eye on this story as it unfolds.