Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team delayed for World Games by Homeland Security passport fiasco

Confederacy Asks for citizen response to pressure US Government

Nedrow, New York (ICC)

The Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team was scheduled to depart Sunday July 11 to compete in the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships in England, but have been thwarted by delays from the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to approve clearance for departure and return through U.S. Immigration for processing visas by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The 23 members of the team were notified by the British Consulate late July 9th that their travel visas were delayed awaiting assurance from the U.S. State Department that they will be allowed to leave the country and be allowed back into the United States following their 14-day competition in Manchester, England to compete in the “equivalent of the Olympics” for lacrosse.

The team is scheduled to play the opening game against England on Thursday, July 15, but will not be able to depart until Tuesday night if the issued can be resolved immediately. This leaves the team no time to rest or practice before the opening game, threatening their ability to win.

“This delay has now become extremely urgent and it must be corrected by July 12th or all the practice and preparation will be wasted, and these young men’s hopes and dreams of will be trampled,” said Percy Abrams, the National’s executive director. “We’re urging all our supporters to contact the White House staff at 202.456.4771 to urge the Department of Homeland Security to allow us clearance so that our team can compete.”

The delay is also creating an enormous financial burden since travel arrangements for airline tickets, hotels, lodging, meals, and transportation must all be changed, costing the team and family members more than $23,000. The Nationals fund raise all year long for the $300,000 budget necessary for them to compete in the world championships, a distinction that is hard-earned.

“Our young athletes are competing at the highest level of competition against other countries,” said Denise Waterman, a member of the team’s board of directors. “They are excellent role models and have worked all year to prepare, so we hope this gets resolved quickly. The great irony is that the game of lacrosse was founded by our people on Iroquois territory, so we hope others can respect the history and origins of game, and not impede our team from competition.”

Three weeks ago, the Haudenosaunee sent notice to the British Consulate in New York requesting permission for application for visas. The Iroquois Nationals are traveling on passports issued by the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, comprised of the Onondaga, Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora and Cayuga nations, who have used their passports to travel internationally for more than 30 years.

While the passports have been widely accepted in the past, the British Consulate notified the team two days ago that they would only issue visas with written assurance from the Department of Homeland Security regarding clearance. That same day, the U.S. State Department advised the Iroquois National’s legal adviser that they could expedite U.S. passports for the team to travel to Manchester, but will not provide clearance to travel on Haudenosaunee passports.

“We cannot do that because we are a sovereign nation. We are our own people,” said Waterman. “We are participating in an international tournament, and to play in an international tournament, you have to be a country. We’ve been recognized by this organization as a nation with our own citizens, our own land, and our own sovereignty. We have been sending teams to international competition since 1990 and have never before had a problem traveling to Japan, England and Australia.”

The Confederacy was established as a formal government before the United States and Canada were countries, and is recognized as an independent nation with homelands that straddle the U.S. and Canadian border. The past several years the Confederacy has been in negotiations with Homeland Security on travel documents, and they are concerned that the current situation may dampen that relationship.

Onondaga attorney Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, is urgently working to help resolve the issue.

“We respect that there are issues with borders and security, and we want to meet all the criteria of any government, but we’re also asking for an accommodation of our own credentials,” she said. “The Iroquois Nationals represent the Iroquois Nation, and they are traveling on Haudenosaunee credentials because that’s who we are representing. It wouldn’t make sense to travel on the on the passports of our competitors. These outstanding athletes – indigenous peoples of North America – should not be blocked from returning to our own territory.”

Oren Lyons, Onondaga Faithkeeper and a former All-American lacrosse goalie, said lacrosse is called the “Creator’s game,” in their culture. “When you talk about lacrosse, you’re talking about the lifeblood of the Six Nations. The game is ingrained into our culture and our lives. This is our game and our gift to the world.”

Lyons – an author, former college professor and international advocate for indigenous rights who helped draft the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – has traveled to many countries on a Haudenosaunee passport for three decades, and is hopeful the situation will eventually be resolved in their favor. The travel delays, however, will likely impact their ability to play at their best due to a lack of rest before the opening game.

The compelling story of the Iroquois Nationals will be featured in the next issue of Sports Illustrated. For more information and photos, go to their website at



Letter, email or posting of support is appreciated

Dear Friends,

            The Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team's travel documents were declared unacceptable for travel by the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security at 4 pm, July 8, 2010. This is traumatic to the Iroquois Nationals' travel schedule and budget.  The Board of Directors, Travel Committee, Coaches, Staff and Team of almost 50 people are struggling to convince the Department of State and Homeland Security to accept our travel documents so that our All-American team can compete as a nation against team Canada, team USA, team England, team Australia and team Japan in the premiere Blue Division of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships hosted by England at Manchester from July 15 to 24, 2010.        

            The game of De-hon-tshi-gwa' ehs (Lacrosse) has become an inspiration to a third of the world's youth –  109 countries in all. The long-stick game is a gift to the world from the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. It would be strange – beyond strange, indeed – if the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team, the national team of the Haudenosaunee were denied participation in the World Lacrosse Championships by agencies of the United States. We are perplexed by this position taken by the Obama Administration.

            Since the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team's admittance to the Federation of International Lacrosse in 1983, the team has participated in every world competition as a member nation, flying our own colors, singing our own anthem and traveling on our own Haudenosaunee passports to England (1985, 1994), Australia and Japan. As citizens we have traveled internationally on our own passports since 1977.  We do not take this issue of passports lightly.  We have traversed our request with the utmost respect for the sovereignty of the nations involved.  As Indigenous Peoples of North America, we have over 200 years of treaties and international relations with our brother, the United States.

            We need your support to help convince the U.S. to accommodate our travel to Manchester, England. The Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team and Team England are scheduled to open the World Lacrosse Championships at 7:00 pm Thursday July 15th.

            This is a call for support.  We want to ensure that Native Peoples should not be told they cannot leave or cannot return to their homelands.

            Please contact the White House at 202.456.4771 to express your support for our clearance to leave and return to participate in the World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England, as soon as possible.  Let us know you did so by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

            Please also email White House Indian Affairs senior staff Kimberly TeeHee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and two State Department officials, Kathleen Milton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Lynn Sicade at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Thank you for your support.   When we win, you win.


Day na to,
Joagquisho, Oren R. Lyons
Honorary Chairman
Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team