Saturday, July 17, 2010

The feather passport 

The AP is running a lenghty article on the Iroquois lacrosse team passport dispute, and one set of paragraphs deep in the article caught my attention:
Like the Iroquois' view of lacrosse, Hopi belief is that running is a gift from the creator, said Bucky Preston, a Hopi from the reservation village of Walpi in northeastern Arizona.

Preston said passports that have been issued by his tribe have represented what it means to be a sovereign people — being honest and sincere, and having faith and belief in the creator, along with concern for all creation.

"I can understand why they're standing strong on this," Preston said.

Among the Hopi, passports in the form of an eagle feather, sometimes tucked in a buckskin-covered pocketbook, have been issued in the past by elders to only a select few. To have one means you've been entrusted to carry messages from the Hopi people to other parts of the world.
My first reaction was that TigerHawk could have a significant business opportunity, counterfeiting such passports at the cabin up in the Adirondacks, using the proceeds from fallen eagle feathers to help fund the cleaning up of eagle scat. TigerHawk would obviously have to bring in a third party to certify that no eagles were harmed in the manufacture of such passports.

My second reaction was perhaps a tad culturally insensitive. To what extent could members of the tribe "carry messages from the Hopi people to other parts of the world" without the use of transportation technology that is almost entirely a creation of European/American white guys? The Hopi do have a good message to send -- that tribe was said to have been among the most peace-loving people in the Americas, contrasted with the more expansionist and reportedly violent histories of the member tribes of the Iroquois nation thousands of miles to the north and east. (It's unlikely the two peoples were even aware of the existence of the other before the 19th Century).

Nobody disputes that American Indians got screwed multiple times, both with respect to the taking of lands and the breaking of treaties. In the 21st Century, taking the notion of sovereignty to the point of issuing passports really stretches the envelope. Tribal members vote in U.S. elections and pay federal (but sometimes not state) income taxes, have fought and died in the service of the U.S. military, and have, I believe, all of the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens because they are U.S. citizens. It's fine to have dual citizenship, if that's what is desired, but what is objectionable to certain tribal leaders about having a passport that meets the security standards of the post-9/11 world, using modern printing technology invented by the same culture that invented the airplanes at the gates down the corridor from where the passports are checked?


By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun Jul 18, 12:24:00 AM:

"...to be a sovereign people — being honest and sincere, and having faith and belief in the creator, along with concern for all creation."

That would make most confirmation classes sovereign nations.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Sun Jul 18, 05:50:00 AM:

I disagree.

The Iroquois Nation's lacrosse team was supposed to be playing in the World Championship hosted in Manchester, but at the last minute some British bueracrats wouldn't let them travel on their Iroquois passports.

For those who don't know, the Iroquois have been regular participants in the Lacrosse World Championship since its inception. The Iroquois are credited with inventing lacrosse -- they called it "little brother of war." I hardly know from lacrosse, but thought this such a cool thing that I've told my kids about it. That and my "why is Jim Brown the best athlete of the last 100 years" rant.

The Iroquois were supposed to be representing a Nation ... their nation ... THE IROQUOIS NATION ... playing against other Nations like Canada. Germany, Australia ... and of course the USA,

Britain got the honor of hosting the first Lacrosse World Championship held In Europe -- they were hosts. It's not like 30 Indians were flying in ... to run over to Cornwall to declare their independence and set up a casino.

The ostensible reason fgiven by the British was security concerns: "no holograms ... too easy to forge." This was either Total Bureaucratic Stupidity and/ or a silly way to get back at the USA.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Sun Jul 18, 02:11:00 PM:

Sounds like Total Bureaucratic Stupidity to me, and racist as well.  

By Blogger DEC, at Sun Jul 18, 02:50:00 PM:

E81: "My first reaction was that TigerHawk could have a significant business opportunity, counterfeiting such passports at the cabin up in the Adirondacks, using the proceeds from fallen eagle feathers to help fund the cleaning up of eagle scat."

U.S. Justice Department: "By law, enrolled members of federally recognized Native American tribes are entitled to obtain permits to possess eagle parts for religious purposes, but federal law strictly prohibits the sale of bald and golden eagles or their feathers and parts under any circumstance."



By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Sun Jul 18, 03:28:00 PM:


The Iroquois are ranked fourth in the world, after the USA, Canada and Australia. Many of their team played for US colleges. They came in fourth in the last three world championships -- including fourth in a 21 team field in 2006. Not bad for a nation of only 125,000 - split between the USA and Canada.

The USA has won ten of these championships, Canada two. Australia has come in second four times.

I was wrong above -- Manchester also hosted in 1994.

The team has travelled on Iroquois passports since the mid-1970s. The current problem is said to be because of post 9/11 concerns with passport forgeries, but it looks like Australia didn't make an issue of it in 2002 when Perth hosted. 2006 was hosted by London, Canada.

This is saddening. Done right, events like this make the world better.

I had the honor of playing against the British Parliamentarian rugby team when they made a friendly visit to NYC post 9/11 -- lords, MPs, and their security detail. Then MP Gordon Brown was part of their touring party. We had some FDNY on our team, including two of the three guys who are in the famous "raising the flag" picture. It was a more innocent time.  

By Blogger SR, at Sun Jul 18, 03:42:00 PM:

The stupidity seems to be on the part of the Iroquois who would easily have dual citizenship if they wanted, and could travel without muss and fuss on US and Canadian passports. Isn't it time to be post-racial?  

By Blogger Stack Trace, at Mon Jul 19, 12:10:00 PM:

Whether Britain should recognize passports issued by the Iroquois nation is a valid question, and it's mostly up to the Brits to decide. However, with the US State department vouching for the team, it's pretty dickish of the Brits to not accept them now, and let them compete, and to deal with the legal aspect later.

There's the letter of the law, and there's the spirit of the law. The Brits are usually pretty sensible, but they really dropped the ball, here. They could have found a way to satisfy their security and immigration needs, without basically sabotaging their own international sporting event.

I say "mostly" above, because if the Iroquois passports are recognized by the US government as legally representing citizens of the US, then they *are* US passports, even if they don't look like my own passport. Separately, the Iroquois clearly have to decide if they want their passports to *be* US passports. There's pride, and there's refusing to accept reality -- guys, you really do live in the US, even if you're not crazy about it.  

By Blogger Stack Trace, at Mon Jul 19, 12:22:00 PM:

Oh, one other thing. I read the article, and the only mention of a "feather passport" is in the paragraph about the Hopi. The Iroquois did not show up in England and try to use feathers as passports. I also looked up several other articles about the same event, and none of those articles mention feathers at all.

Also, here's a quote from a press release from the Iroquois nation:

"While we are deeply disappointed we could not bring our talented team to the world championships, there simply was no way we could accede to the recommendation that we accept either American or Canadian passports to travel. The Haudenosaunee passports we travel on – like the game of lacrosse itself which our ancestors invented – are essential to our identity as a sovereign people making our way in the world community.

"We are grateful to the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the cooperative and respectful talks that led to their agreement to let us travel in and out of the United States on our passports for this event. We are disappointed the United Kingdom could not see its way clear to join the United States in this gesture of respect."

So the Feds were OK with their passports, but the UK wasn't. What a strange situation -- one nation recognizes the sovereignty of another nation, contained entirely within its own borders. And yet a different nation doesn't recognize that same sovereignty. Me, I don't know what to make of it, but it sure would make an interesting case study in a law class.  

By Blogger Dan Kauffman, at Wed Jul 21, 11:59:00 PM:

"After initially refusing to accept Iroquois-issued passports because the documents lack security features"

LOL we seem to have some folks here a tad confused about what the term sovereignty means, The UK requires certain security features in a passport before allowing someone to enter THEIR country?
Is not that a sovereign decision?

Does the Iroquois Nation hold that another sovereign nation does NOT have the right to decide who and how someone enters their borders??  

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