Last week, the Haudenosaunee Nationals traveled to Ireland for the lacrosse world championships … and in a tender moment of international solidarity, the Irish government accepted the passports that identified the players not as US citizens, but as members of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee. As Buffalo New reported:
Irish customs officials formally acknowledged and accepted Haudenosaunee passports that represent the people of the Six Nations, providing an international courtesy that Nationals board member Rex Lyons said has not been offered with such grace and respect at other destinations in the past. In 2010, in the most prominent example, a team consisting of players from the Six Nations was unable to compete in the lacrosse world championships in Great Britain because those passports were not accepted.
"They treated us the way anyone would hope to be treated," Lyons said of officials from the Republic of Ireland.
This is notable for two reasons:
First, there's a long history of solidarity between the Irish and various Native peoples of North America, inspired in no small part by the shared experience of British forces showing up on their respective shores and fucking up their shit for centuries at a time. As mentioned above, the British government had refused to accept the Haudenosaunee passports when the team attempted to travel to the England for a lacrosse tournament in 2010. The Canadian government, too, has been known to confiscate Haudenosaunee passports, dismissing them as "fantasy documents" — despite the fact that the passport was created in 1977 through negotiations with governments including Canada and the UK. (And despite the fact that the Jay Treaty of 1794 clearly secures a right for "Indians dwelling on either side of the said Boundary Line freely to pass and repass by Land, or Inland Navigation, into the respective Territories and Countries of the Two Parties on the Continent of America.")
Even when then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened in the 2010 lacrosse tournament, securing a temporary clearance for the team with the British government, she still did so under the insistence that they were US citizens. That's because, to acknowledge the validity of their Haudenosaunee passports would mean acknowledging the sovereignty of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy … which would in turn mean the US would have to acknowledge all of the other laws and treaties they have broken with Native American nations. As the Onondaga Nation explains:
These treaties are between sovereigns: the United States as one party and the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee as the other party. These treaties are clear evidence that we are a separate sovereign and that our citizens are not US citizens, despite the unilateral attempt by the US in 1924 with its Citizenship Act. The Haudenosaunee sent a clear letter to the President of the US in 1924 stating that we were not willing to relinquish our citizenship.
For many years, Haudenosaunee citizens have traveled using our own passports and identification cards. In our view, the term "freely" in the Jay Treaty means that burdensome documentation requirements cannot be lawfully imposed without our consent. Our right to carry our own documentation is a part of our right to self determination. In recent years, we have worked hard to ensure that the federal government continues to respect our right to carry our own documentation.
Or, as Sid Hill wrote in The Guardian in 2015:
Maintaining our sovereignty demands that we use our own passport. This is why we stamped the passports of visiting nations – including US Americans and the British – in September when the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships was held for the first time on Haudenosaunee land: to underscore that this has always been and remains our land.
We do not have the option of simply accepting American or Canadian passports. We are citizens of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, as we have been for millennia before the Europeans' arrival.
That is not negotiable.
To be fair, Haudenosaunee passports have been accepted by the government of Japan, although even that process took about a year of planning. And the Swedish government has acknowledged the passports of the Cree nation from Northern Ontario. But the Irish acceptance of these passports was still a rare enough occurrence to still be sadly newsworthy.
Between Haudenosaunee and Ireland, lacrosse builds deep bond of respect [Sean Kirst / Buffalo News]
My six nation Haudenosaunee passport is not a 'fantasy document' [Sid Hill / The Guardian]
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy: Sovereignty, Citizenship And Passports [Onondaga Nation]