NEW YORK - The U.S. government has agreed to allow a native American lacrosse team to travel to England for a world championship competition under passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy, a team spokeswoman 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 team travel using higher-security U.S. passports. The players 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.
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.
A State Department official said earlier Wednesday that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had taken an interest in the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.
Clinton is a former New York senator. The Iroquois Confederacy oversees land that stretches from upstate New York into Ontario, Canada.
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.