Kenneth Deer: The real barbarians in Haudenosaunee travel flap
"The Iroquois, or the Haudenosaunee as we call ourselves, have been around for many centuries and were a developed federation of nations when the British arrived in North America. Without going into a long historical explanation at this time, we have resisted colonization up until today and will continue into the future.

We believe ourselves to be part of the natural world and, as such, part of the world community. We survive because we adjust to European contact and bend, but do not break to pressures of assimilation. That is why we still exist.

We have always maintained our sovereignty and express it in various ways. One is by issuing our own passports. This is not new to us. We have issued our own travel documents before passports were in vogue.

It is in our traditions that when we send a message with a runner or representative to another nation, we issue them a string of wampum as their credential as our spokesman and the words we send him with.

It was the protocol of the day for the wampum carrier to stop at the edge of the foreign settlement and light a fire. The messenger would await an inquiry from one of the guards and if deemed appropriate would be ushered in to state the message contained in the wampum. This act still remains a part of our ceremony in our Condolence Ceremony today and is called “The Edge of the Forest.”

In modern times, we still issue wampum but also passports as our adjustment to today’s reality. When using our passports, we approach the state and ask permission of the state to enter their country. We do this with respect and honor. It is up to the discretion of the state to allow us in. It is a very human way to behave, like friendly neighbors."

Get the Story:
Kenneth Deer: Who is the barbarian here? (Indian Country Today 7/23

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