Washington, DC – 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. Senator Gillibrand praised Secretary Clinton for clearing the way for the 23-member team to travel to the United Kingdom to participate in the Olympics of lacrosse and expressed disappointment in the outcome.
In a letter to Secretary Clinton, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “Considering the recent situation which prevented the members of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team and their supporters from traveling to the United Kingdom to participate in the international lacrosse tournament with the Haudenosaunee passports, and in an effort to prevent against such disappointment in the future, I therefore request that you work with Tribal governments, in concert with the Canadian government to the extent that Canada faces a similar situation, to come to an understanding with the United Kingdom and other foreign governments with the goal of establishing a document or process that would provide Native American travelers with the same freedom of movement enjoyed by all U.S. citizens.”
The members of the Iroquois lacrosse team view their tribe as a sovereign nation and, like many Native Americans throughout New York, strongly and rightfully protect their own national identities and will not accept a U.S. or Canadian passport. This important recognition coupled with heightened aviation security standards after September 11th pose a challenge for the Iroquois lacrosse team, leaving them unable to leave New York and compete in England. To ensure that this does not happen again, Senator Gillibrand encouraged the U.S. and Canada to work with Native American leaders to develop a universally recognized document for all tribes and nations in North America that meet international travel standards.
Current standards for travel documents, developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization for Machine Readable Passports (MRPs), include a machine readable zone on the identity page with the name, passport number, nationality, date of birth, sex, passport expiration date and personal identity number of the passport holder.
On Wednesday, Secretary Clinton issued a one-time travel waiver and granted approval for them to re-enter the U.S., but the British government decided not to recognize the waiver and denied the team entry into the United Kingdom. The Iroquois lacrosse team defaulted on the first game and currently remains in New York ahead of tomorrow’s second game.
Full text of the letter is below.
Dear Madam Secretary,
I am writing to you with regard to the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team’s recent inability to travel to the United Kingdom on Haudenosaunee passports. Thank you for your decision to allow a one-time waiver for the team to travel on their passports and for the efforts of your staff to work with the British consulate on behalf of the team’s ability to travel. I am disappointed by the decision of the United Kingdom government to deny entry visas to the team despite your decision to grant them a waiver and assurance that they would be allowed to re-enter the United States, but am also hopeful that you will continue your efforts to facilitate travel of Native Americans internationally.
As you are aware, there is a large constituency of Native Americans in New York State. The tribes strongly guard their sovereignty and rightly celebrate and protect their own national identities. Treaties between the United States and tribal governments have established their status as sovereign nations within the United States. It is understandable that they should seek to maintain their national insignia to the greatest extent possible. Although current law provides that “a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe”…“shall be nationals and citizens of the United States,” we should also not fail to recognize the unique status that Native Americans enjoy.
In past instances, members of the Iroquois Confederacy have been allowed to travel internationally using a Haudenosaunee travel document. I fully understand that it is the right of each country to determine what is accepted as a valid travel document for entry into their country. However, it seems to me that other countries should be more amenable to consideration of United States Government’s policies that accommodate the sovereignty of Native Americans while addressing the concerns of foreign governments.
It is my understanding that the Haudenosaunee Grand Council of Chiefs is in ongoing discussion with the Department of State regarding how to improve their passport so that it would meet the higher-level international travel security requirements. Considering the recent situation which prevented the members of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team and their supporters from traveling to the United Kingdom to participate in the international lacrosse tournament with the Haudenosaunee passports, and in an effort to prevent against such disappointment in the future, I therefore request that you work with Tribal governments, in concert with the Canadian government to the extent that Canada faces a similar situation, to come to an understanding with the United Kingdom and other foreign governments with the goal of establishing a document or process that would provide Native American travelers with the same freedom of movement enjoyed by all U.S. citizens.
I request your assessment of whether current law would allow the development of an alternative travel document that would be recognized by other governments such as the United Kingdom, your facilitation of enhancing the Haudenosaunee passport so that it complies with standard international practices, or if necessary, the determination of whether legislation would be necessary in order to move forward on resolving this issue.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to working with you to address these concerns.