Let My People Go!
Because the Bitter American is a big LAX fan!
The U.S. government has agreed to allow the Iroquois lacrosse team to travel abroad 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 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, however.
The team needs to get on a Wednesday flight to make a Thursday evening game.
The Iroquois helped invent lacrosse and, in a rare example of international recognition of American Indian sovereignty, participate at every tournament as a separate nation.
The 23 players have passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy, a group of six Indian nations overseeing land that stretches from upstate New York into Ontario, Canada.
The U.S. government says it will only let players back into the country if they have U.S. passports, a team official said. The British government, meanwhile, won't give the players visas if they cannot guarantee they'll be allowed to go home, the official said.
'That's our identity'
One Iroquois player, Brett Bucktooth, said he would rather miss the tournament than travel under a U.S. passport.
"That's the people we are, and that's our identity," he said.
Bucktooth, 27, also spoke of his deep cultural and personal connection with lacrosse — first played by Iroquois and Huron about 1,000 years ago.
"My father put a wooden lacrosse stick into my crib when I was a baby, and now that I have a son, I put a lacrosse stick into his crib," he said. "In our culture, we all start playing lacrosse young."
Bucktooth and other Iroquois see lacrosse as a gift to the tribes from their creator. Lacrosse was played by American Indians as a preparation for war and "to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, and develop strong, virile men," according to US Lacrosse, the American governing body of the sport.
Today, the Iroquois team is ranked No. 4 by the Federation of International Lacrosse and represents the Haudenosaunee – an Iroquois Confederacy of the Oneida, Seneca, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Cayuga and Onondaga nations. About 90,000 Haudenosaunee, or "the people of the longhouse," live today in New York, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma, as well as Quebec and Ontario, said Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons.
The team has been travelling on Iroquois passports for the past 20 years, and Iroquois passport holders have been using them to go abroad since 1977, said Denise Waterman, a member of the team's board of directors. Within the last year, colleagues used their Iroquois passports to travel to Japan and Sweden without any problems, she said.
In the past, U.S. immigration officials accepted the Iroquois passports when they obtained visas — including for trips to Britain in 1985 and 1994, and as recently as 2002 to Australia.