Iroquois U19 Women 2014 Iroquois Team Lacrosse Helmet
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Iroquois U19 Women Withdraw From WLC

The Iroquois U19 Women will not be traveling to Scotland for the 2015 U19 FIL World Lacrosse Championships. The team has now withdrawn from the competition.

News of this development began to spread yesterday via social media. And a post outlining the currently known basic sides to the situation popped up on IL Women today. We are once again seeing the Haudenosaune passport validity issue pop up, and comparisons to the 2010 Iroquois Men’s Team being unable to travel to and from Manchester, England will inevitably be drawn.

The story as it is currently being told goes something (it’s never been a 100% accurate storyline due to the large scale reach of the story) like this:

Iroquois U19 Women Withdraw From WLC

The Iroquois will not travel on US or Canadian passports. The Iroquois Lacrosse Program is considered a national team. So they insist on traveling on their own nation’s passports. I can not speak for all of the Iroquois, but many, if not all, do not view themselves as US or Canadian citizens. They will, however, travel on their Haudenosaune passports, issued by their own nation’s government.

Recent upgrades to international travel passport requirements (many made in 2009) have rendered the older style Haudenosaune passports ineligible for such travel in many countries. The US and UK (Scotland is part of the UK) are two of them. Before then, the issues were less about the technical merits of the passports, and more about Iroquois’ sovereign status.

In 2010, the UK and the US could not agree on whether the passports/visas would allow the Iroquois to get back in to the US. Although the US eventually agreed to it (the UK would not), the men’s squad did not travel to Manchester for the games. US and Canadian passports were offered for use, but were rejected, due to the aforementioned fact that the Iroquois players are not US or Canadian citizens.

Now, in 2015, the Iroquois U19 Women are running into the same situation, and have withdrawn from the competition, seemingly believing that they will not be able to find a way to get over to Scotland. We see history repeating itself.

Has Anything Really Changed?

In 2010, many commenters and people around the community got on board with the Iroquois’ position that they should be able to travel on their own passports. If they had to show them to the FIL to prove they were members of the Iroquois nation, shouldn’t they be able to travel on them as well? For many, it was a fair question.

Of course there were those that thought the Iroquois should travel on US and Canadian passports. For me at least, that point of view fails to see it from the Iroquois’ side at all. If they give up on their passports, and the right to travel on them, they give up some of their national sovereignty, and that is simply a non-starter politically. How do you play as a nation, if you can’t travel as a national? The Iroquois are about a lot more than just lacrosse, and when you view it that way, withdrawing is a powerful political statement, and obvious choice.

In other cases in the 2000s, the Iroquois passport was at times accepted, and at times not accepted. In 2010 another group of people were detained in Bolivia when they tried to use their passports. In 2005, Japan allowed its use once, and Oren Lyons has traveled on his Iroquois passport as well in the last couple of years.

The only difference now (and it is a big difference), is that 5 years have passed since this last happened to an entire team of lacrosse players. Everyone involved; the US, the UK, and the Iroquois, knew this was coming unless something got changed. And seemingly, nothing got changed. Or at least not enough to make international travel possible for the Iroquois U19 Women, a team of hardworking young people, inspired by the game.

Should the Iroquois have updated their passports by now? I am not a passport expert, and have no idea how long that would take, or what the cost should be, although reports are that the passports are being updated. Should the US and Canada allow the current passports to be used even though they don’t meet international guidelines? If you have a US or Canadian flag tattoo, you might be saying no, but aren’t there existing treaties between the US, Canada, and the Iroquois stating the Iroquois are sovereign? I think there are actually a LOT of treaties saying that. Should those treaties not be honored? I don’t know what you’ll say to that, and unless you’re a PoliSci PhD, you might only understand it as well as I do… which is to say only a little.

So what can be done here? The sad truth is that options are very limited.

In 2017 and 2018, the FIL women’s and men’s games will once again be held in the UK. Will the Iroquois be there playing? Or will they once again be left out in the cold because we can’t figure out a fair way to let 25 people travel to another country to play lacrosse for their nation? How can the Iroquois U19 Women be the last Iroquois team excluded from playing their game?