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Lacrosse players allowed to travel on Iroquois passports

Update at 11:50pm:

A spokeswoman for the Iroquois lacrosse team says the U.S. government has agreed to allow the team to travel abroad under passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy. Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation who works with the team, says the U.S. State Department dropped a demand that the team travel using higher-security U.S. passports.

The team still has not been issued British visas to attend the Lacrosse World Championship in Manchester, England. The team needs to get on a Wednesday flight to make a Thursday evening game. The players say being forced to accept U.S. passports would be an attack on their identity.

Earlier:

The Iroquois National Lacrosse team was blocked from boarding a plane at JFK airport at 4:00 Tuesday afternoon over a passport dispute. A spokesman for the Iroquois Confederacy says the team will stay in a motel near the airport overnight as negotiations continue between the Indian nation, the U.S. State Department and the United Kingdom. The team is ranked fourth in the World Championships which is to begin Thursday in England.

While the team was stuck in New York City, General Manager Ansley Jemison told reporters, "23 world class athletes, I don't forsee as being a national security threat. We just want to play lacrosse."

T he United Kingdom which is hosting the championships apparently will not honor the passports issued by the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. The team refused an offer by the U.S. State Department to issue them U.S.passports even though it would clear the way for the team to participate in a tournament that has attracted lacrosse teams from 50 nations.

L acrosse originated with the Iroquois a thousand years ago. Jeanne Shenandoah says like lacrosse, the passports she issues on behalf of the confederacy are a source of pride. "The basic issue for the passport is recognition of us. As native people who live here, we've never given up our identity as to who we are. We have never declared ourselves citizens of New York State nor citizens of the United States."

A uthorities in England would honor the passports if the U.S. State Department. could guarantee that the team would be allowed to re-enter the United States. One source familiar with the negotiations tells CNY Central such a "right to re-entry" would be granted to any person born on U.S. Soil, but some members of the team were born in Canada.

N egotiations toward a settlement continue , the team has reservations on a flight that leaves Wednesday.

EARLIER COVERAGE:

The Iroquois lacrosse team plans to head to a New York airport in the hopes that its passport dispute will be resolved in time for a flight to Europe.

Spokesman Bob Liff says the team and its support staff would go to Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. The World Lacrosse Championship starts Thursday in England.

The Iroquois helped invent lacrosse and have previously traveled to championships using passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy. But the U.S. government says it will only let players back into the country if they have U.S. passports.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation who works with the team, says the players see the U.S. government-issued documents as an attack on their identity.

The U.S. State Department didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

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