Lacrosse and the threat to a sovereign nation


After last week’s LeBronathon, there was a lot of kvetching that a focus on sports had no place in a world that should be more interested in real news. But here’s a sports story that more than illuminates a real issue.

The World Lacrosse Championship tournament is opening in England, but a group of Native American players is — so far — being denied entry to England because they are members of a sovereign nation, one that’s not being recognized by the UK. And they may be denied re-entry to the U.S. They’re are Iroquois.

“It seems, as Native people, we always have to do several things to make it through to an objective. There are always hurdles. But this is different, in that we usually do this very quietly and now we feel we need to let people know what’s going on. We’re meeting every hurdle as it comes up,” says Denise Waterman, a member of the Iroquois Nationals board of directors.

For two decades, they’ve traveled the earth on Haudenosaunee passports, but this year when they mailed them to the British Consulate in New York, they were told they had to travel on either U.S. or Canadian passports.

“We said we cannot do that,” she told Indian Country Today. “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.”

But not this time. The team’s first scheduled game? England.

Indian Country’s commentary, however, holds the Obama administration responsible:

The Haudenosaunee played a vital role in introducing lacrosse to the world. (For them lacrosse is ceremonial, for they consider it to be “the Creator’s game.”) How ironic, then, that the United States government may prevent the Haudenosaunee players from competing internationally in a world lacrosse championship.

(h/t: JP Rennquist)

  • And this story made NPR on ATC today…

    The sovereignty of Indian Nations is, unfortunately, a complete and utter mess, which has only become more muddled, not less, over time. This story helps bring it to light.

  • Heather

    Is there anything we can do to help? I’m pretty sure the British didn’t invent lacrosse.