Iroquois Nationals Passport Controversy


United States

Borders Citizenship Identity & Belonging

In 2010, the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team attempted to travel to Manchester, England where they were slated to compete in the World Lacrosse Championships.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, team members were blocked from boarding their flight on the grounds that their passports did not constitute valid identification for international travel under post-9/11 security standards. Originators of the modern game of lacrosse, the Iroquois are comprised of six different native nations whose ancestral lands span from upstate New York into Canada. Iroquois peoples identify themselves as citizens of their respective nations and had historically travelled internationally with Iroquois-issued passports. British and U.S. officials maintained that the passports, which were partially handwritten and lacked a hologram, were susceptible to counterfeiting. Due to the team’s self-advocacy and the ensuing media attention, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton granted the team a one-time state department clearance to travel without a U.S. passport. The British government, however, refused to recognize this provisional status and continued to deny the players entry. While the 2010 team—coined “Sovereignty Pride,”—was unable to play in the Manchester tournament, the passport controversy catapulted it into international notoriety.