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Photo: Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse / Facebook Justin Brake
APTN News

After a two-day travel delay due to diplomatic discussions between Canada and Israel the Iroquois Nationals men’s lacrosse team is en route to Israel to compete in the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships.

The team was turned away from boarding a flight at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Monday after presenting their Haudenosaunee passports as an assertion of their Indigenous sovereignty.

They then waited and practiced at Six Nations while Canadian and Israeli officials worked out an agreement.

That agreement was reached around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Nimrod Barkan, told APTN News Wednesday.

Barkan said the Haudenosaunee passports are “not recognized in any agreement between Canada and Israel, and therefore we could not let them in without the consent of the Canadian government.

He said Canada granted the team, but no other Haudenosaunee passport holders, a one-time exemption to travel to Israel using their Indigenous passports.

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada confirmed the agreement but did not share details.

It’s not the first time the team has ran into problems with the passports. In 2010, the team was denied travel to Manchester for the world championships, and in 2015 the under-19 women’s team was unable to travel to Scotland for their equivalent tournament.

Citizens of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy — which include the Mohawk, Seneca Onondaga, Cayuga and Oneida Nations — see the acceptance of their passports as a recognition of their sovereignty.

Nationals asked to boycott games in solidarity with Palestinians

But the latest effort to assert that sovereignty comes amid calls for the Nationals to boycott the tournament since it’s being held in Israel, a country that last month was condemned by the United Nations for its massacre of Palestinians who were nonviolently protesting in Gaza against Israel’s occupation.

According to recent news reports, the Israeli military has killed at least 124 Palestinians and wounded at least 14,000 more since the end of March, when Palestinians in Gaza launched their nonviolent Great March of Return protests.

Last week the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) published an open letter calling on the Iroquois Nationals to withdraw from the tournament, arguing the team’s presence affords Israel the “opportunity to use the national sport of the Iroquois to cover up its escalating, violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians throughout our ancestral lands.”

“As indigenous peoples, we have both seen our traditional lands colonized, our people ethnically cleansed and massacred by colonial settlers,” the letter reads.
“Like you, we have seen settler-colonialism limit and attempt to erase or appropriate our traditions, culture, heritage and identity.”Facing accusations by some that the Iroquois Nationals are attempting to separate sports and politics to exercise their sovereignty while ignoring Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, team manager Ansley Jemison told APTN Tuesday the Nationals are “bringing the medicine game” to the world championships.“Maybe it can bring some healing,” he said, speaking from Six Nations. “Maybe it can bring some relief to an area that’s pretty troubled.”The Haudenosaunee are credited with creating lacrosse, though the game, which has been embraced by nations around the world, has evolved significantly from its origins. The Nationals are also the only Indigenous team in the tournament and are considered championship contenders.“We’re still [experiencing] colonization in our own home territories. This is us exerting our sovereignty to be able to compete at this world level, and being able to compete against the USA and team Canada,” Jemison explained.“So it’s important that we’re representing [our Nations] because the colonization efforts are about erasure, and we’re still here, we’re still standing. We still have our cultural values, we still […]

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