NEW YORK (AP) — Time is running out for a team of Iroquois lacrosse players who have been blocked from traveling to a tournament in England because they refuse to use U.S. or Canadian passports.
For the fourth straight day, the 23 men of the Iroquois Nationals team lingered in New York City on Friday, hoping to be given permission to board a plane for Manchester carrying travel documents issued by the Iroquois confederacy.
“We haven’t given up and we’re standing by,” said the team’s chairman, Oren Lyons.
Yet as the day drew on, there was little positive news for the squad.
The team received a letter from British officials, reaffirming that they would not be issued travel visas based on their Iroquois documents.
Team representatives said they would continue to appeal their case and repeated a request for 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 answer late in the day was still, “no,” and the odds increased that the team would miss its second game of the World Lacrosse Championships, scheduled for Saturday. It had to forfeit its first game Thursday, against England, when it didn’t arrive in time.
Still, the team wasn’t ready to call it quits or give in.
“Right now we’re just trying to focus on lacrosse and stay ready,” said player Drew Bucktooth.
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.
The team had initially been barred from traveling by the U.S., which said 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 has so far refused to budge.
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.
Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
Tags: buffalo post, Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Hillary Clinton, Iroquois, Iroquois Confederacy, Iroquois Nationals, Lacrosse, National Congress of American Indians, Prime Minister David Cameron, tribal sovereignty, U.S. State Department, World Lacrosse Championships