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Iroquois lacrosse team ends bid to go to England

By David B. Caruso
New York, New York (AP) July 2010

Iroquois lacrosse players who refused to travel on passports issued by the U.S. and Canada because they do not consider themselves citizens of those countries exhausted their last options on July 17 for going to the sport's world championship in England.

Leaders of the Iroquois Nationals squad announced that the last ditch attempt to persuade British officials to recognize their Haudenosaunee passports had failed.

“While we are deeply disappointed we could not bring our talented team to the world championships, there simply was no way we could accede to the recommendation that we accept either American or Canadian passports to travel,” the team's chairman, Oren Lyons, said in a statement.

“The Haudenosaunee passports we travel on – like the game of lacrosse itself which our ancestors invented – are essential to our identity as a sovereign people making our way in the world community,” he said.

By July 17th, some team members had already returned home to upstate New York and Canada after spending days camped at a hotel near Kennedy Airport.

The highly ranked team had to forfeit its first two games of the tournament, taking place in Manchester, England, when first the U.S., and then the U.K., refused to honor the passports carried by the players.

The Iroquois' last scheduled game was to take place on July 18, but team officials had continued efforts to obtain visas for the players before getting yet another “No” from British officials on the afternoon of July 18th.

In the past, the U.S. and other nations had allowed some limited use of passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy, but tighter security rules since the Sept. 11 attacks have led to a crackdown.

Members of the team attempted to travel on their own passports on Tuesday, but were denied permission to get on a flight from New York's Kennedy airport.

Their hopes were raised briefly when the U.S. said it would issue a one-time waiver authorizing the team's travel, but the U.K. has declined to follow suit.

Team lawyer Tonya Gonnella Frichner said the fight will continue. The Nationals have other international tournaments looming on the horizon, including the FIL World Indoor Box Lacrosse Championships in the Czech Republic in 2011. They hope to gain recognition for their travel documents by then, she said.

“It is just a matter of time,” she said.

The confederacy has been working on a $1.5 million project to transition to higher-security documents now required for many border crossings, although it is uncertain whether that will be enough to persuade either the U.S. or other nations to accept the documents as valid.

Under U.S. law, Iroqouis born in the country are American citizens, even though some do not consider themselves so and dwell on Indian land that has been in tribal hands for centuries.