The U.S. government agreed to allow a Native American lacrosse team to travel to England for a world championship competition under passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy, officials said Wednesday.
Tonya Gonnella Frichner, a member of the Onondaga Nation who works with the team, said the State Department dropped a demand that the players and their entourage travel using higher-security U.S. passports. The team members regard U.S. government-issued documents as an attack on their identity.
The team still needs British visas to attend the Lacrosse World Championship in Manchester, England. The British government said previously it wouldn't give the players visas if they could not guarantee they'd be allowed to go home.
A British Consulate spokeswoman couldn't immediately say whether the visas were forthcoming.
"I am relieved that this bureaucratic technicality has been papered over and these young men can go and do what they have trained to do: play lacrosse and compete on the international scene," Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.
Slaughter said in a statement she had spoken Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about the case and they "agreed that the issue ought to be resolved."
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.
The Iroquois Confederacy oversees land that stretches from upstate New York into Ontario, Canada.
On Tuesday, the 23 members of the 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.