Iroquois lacrosse team bowing out of UK tournament
NEW YORK (AP) – Time ran out on Friday for a team of Iroquois lacrosse players who have been blocked from traveling to a tournament in England because of a passport dispute.
The 23 members of the Iroquois Nationals – whose ancestors helped invent the sport as much as 1,000 years ago – refuse to use U.S. or Canadian passports, and the United Kingdom won’t recognize their passports issued by the Iroquois confederacy.
After a week of appeals to British officials, the answer was still “no.” The team is planning to bow out of the tournament because there is no longer time to get to the games, manager Ansley Jemison said. The Nationals already missed their first scheduled game of the World Lacrosse Championships and were bumped to a lower division.
“There comes a time when we finally have to pull the plug,” Jemison said.
The team has been camped out in a New York hotel in limbo this week, but Jemison said players will now be returning home.
He said the team still wants to attend the tournament and will go if British officials reverse their decision.
The U.S. initially barred the team from traveling, saying the Iroquois passports lacked the necessary security features for border crossings.
After Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton intervened, the team got a one-time waiver, but the British government still refused to budge.
Team representatives had requested a face-to-face meeting with British consular officials. The National Congress of American Indians, a large tribal advocacy organization, wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to intervene.
But the players received a letter from British officials, reaffirming that they would not be issued travel visas based on their Iroquois documents.
Some countries have accepted the Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, passports in the past, but many have tightened travel rules in recent years and months to crack down on document fraud and illegal immigration.
Members of the team have been offered passports by the U.S. and Canada, but they say they will only use papers issued by the confederacy, a centuries-old league of semiautonomous Indian nations whose residents mostly live now in New York, Ontario and Quebec.
To do otherwise, they said, would be denying their own ancestry and citizenship in Indian nations that predate the foundation of the U.S. by centuries.
Jemison said the players are still trying to gain recognition for the passports so they can attend future international games.