Iroquois defend nation and identity

The press reports that the Iroquois confederacy of tribes in upstate New York continue to fight, as do all American Indian tribes and Indigenous peoples everywhere, to maintain their identities and human rights.

Mohawk Chief Howard Thompson gathers each month with the 49 other chiefs from the six Haudenosaunee nations. Today he awaits the start of a meeting of the Haudenosaunee Peace and Trade Committee, where tradition will grapple with the outside world because the issue of passports will be discussed.

In July, the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team missed the world championship in Britain rather than travel overseas under U.S. or Canadian passports. Their Haudenosaunee passports were deemed inadequate because they were partly handwritten and lacked high-tech security features.

Karl Hill, Haudenosaunee Documentation Committee chairman, explains how the confederacy has spent perhaps $1 million to bring their identification into line with the U.S. government’s new standards.

For now, the handwritten Haudenosaunee passports still can be easily counterfeited, he says. But that would never be reason enough for the lacrosse players to travel on another nation’s document, he adds. Such a choice would be a betrayal of their national identity.

We are a nation, he insists, and it matters.
“The fact that we’re still here is a testament to our survival. Now why on earth would we give that up and call ourselves U.S. citizens?”

The question of identity for the almost 5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives within the United States is complicated. About one-third identify themselves as being more than one race. Some serve in the U.S. military. Whether you use the word integrated or assimilated, many have blended into American life. . . .

It’s not simple, being a nation within a nation.
Onondaga Nation leaders say they don’t directly accept federal funds, although nation members are eligible for U.S.-funded medical care. In many American Indian nations, state and federal money pays for health clinics, for education and for poverty assistance.

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