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U.K. Denies Iroquois Lacrosse Team OK to Travel

Monday, July 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) An Iroquois Indian lacrosse team cannot fly to England for what's considered the Olympics of the sport invented by their American ancestors because the U.S. government won't allow them to re-enter the country. The 23 players have passports issued by the Iroquois nation, based on a treaty signed by George Washington. The British are withholding visas for the players, who plan to re-apply for them Monday at the British Consulate in New York

By SAMANTHA GROSS (AP)

NEW YORK — The British government is refusing to allow an American Indian lacrosse team to travel to England using passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy.

The decision Wednesday means the team will miss a world championship lacrosse competition in Manchester.

A British Consulate spokeswoman says the team would be able to travel only with documents the United Kingdom considers valid.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation who works with the team, says it was told by British officials that members would have to use American or Canadian passports in order to travel to Britain.

The decision was announced hours after the U.S. cleared the team for travel on a one-time waiver at the behest of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Percy Abrams, Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team board of directors executive director, shows his Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, passport during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, July 14, 2010. The U.S. government on Wednesday agreed to let the Native American lacrosse team travel to England for a tournament under Iroquois Confederacy passports, but their travel plans were still on hold because they lacked visas from Britain and because some players needed clearance from Canada. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

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Gonnella Frichner said the State Department dropped a demand that the team travel using higher-security U.S. passports. The players regard U.S. government-issued documents as an attack on their identity.

The British government had said previously it wouldn’t give the players visas if they could not guarantee they’d be allowed to go home.

U.S. officials previously informed the team that new security rules for international travelers meant that their old passports — low-tech, partly handwritten documents issued by the Iroquois Confederacy of six Indian nations — wouldn’t be honored.

The team needs to get on a Wednesday flight to make a Thursday evening game.

On Tuesday, the 23 members of the New York-based squad arrived at a Delta terminal at Kennedy International Airport wearing team jackets and shirts. Their manager, Ansley Jemison, didn’t expect to be allowed to board their flight to Amsterdam and wasn’t surprised to be turned away at the check-in desk.

But by showing up, the team avoided forfeiting its tickets. Airline officials said they would allow the squad to rebook its flight for Wednesday without penalty if it secured the proper documents, according to Jemison.

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