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Iroquois identity


The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team was turned back just as team members were about to board a plane to the United Kingdom to participate in the 2010 International Lacrosse Championship.

Assistant coach Ansley Jemison found out that British officials wouldn't accept team members' passports because they were issued by the Haudenosaunee or Six Nations, a league of Native Americans of North America.

"In past years, we traveled to Great Britain and most of the Commonwealth countries, and we never had a problem," Jemison says. "We always traveled as our own sovereign nation under our own flag."

The incident, which drew international headlines, prevented the team from playing even though it was ranked fourth in the world.

Since then, the team has traveled to other countries, but Haudenosaunee passports remain problematic despite the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty between the Six Nations and the US government. The treaty recognizes the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee and protects their right to govern themselves, Jemison says.

Jemison will give a lecture, "Denying Identity: The Ongoing Passport Issue," at Nazareth College at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, in the Shults Center. Tickets for the event, presented by Friends of Ganondagan, are $10 for Ganondagan members, $15 for non-members, and $5 for students.

Jemison says he understands that recent events have led to concerns about national security, but preserving cultural identity is an extremely sensitive historical issue for Native Americans. And the passport problem exacerbates the issue, he says.

Northeastern Native Americans are widely viewed as the originators of lacrosse, Jemison says, so it's more than just a game. Lacrosse has deep historical roots, and was used for sport, developing character, and settling disputes, he says.