According to news reports in recent days, some members of Iroquois Indian tribes are claiming a right to travel internationally on tribal “passports”, and U.S. officials — including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the request of upstate Rep. Louise Slaughter and other New York politicos — have leaned over backwards to let them do so. As I relate in my forthcoming book, some Indian tribes in the U.S. have been getting louder in asserting that they have the rights and perquisites of actual state sovereignty — something U.S. Supreme Court precedent makes very clear they do not have — and have been invoking international human rights law, and its precepts in defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, in support of those vain claims. That seems to be going on to some extent here too.
The State Department has long accepted some casual use of tribal “passports” given a number of tribes’ geographic sprawl across the U.S.-Canada border (where until recently the paperwork burdens for travelers were minimal anyway). If it is now beginning to play along with bogus assertions of a right to use Indian passports in travel around the world, that would be big news. Let’s hope that’s not what the new reports mean.