Players stranded at JFK airport in NY
Posted 10 hours ago
AKWESASNE — Several lacrosse players from Akwesasne and its sister Mohawk Nation community of Six Nations are in the middle of what’s become an international dispute.
The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team — which includes former Cornwall Collegiate student Peter Jacobs and standout players and brothers Jeremy and Jerome Thompson — were to be playing at the World Lacrosse Championships that are already underway in Manchester, England.
But instead they’re still at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, as bureaucrats wrangle over a passport dispute.
“All sides claim they’re trying to resolve this, but it’s becoming a big international situation,” said Akwesasne Grand Chief Mike Mitchell, who’s being kept abreast of a fairly complex situation.
The Iroquois National team’s participation in the 30-country event is being threatened because of a dispute over the players’ Haudenosaunee passports.
In the post-9/11 era and security crackdown, the passports are considered low-tech, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened earlier in the week to grant the club a one-time waiver.
Now it’s the British government denying entry to the team, saying the Iroquois passports are unacceptable.
The team has already had to forfeit its tournament-opening game, against host England, with the English playing Germany in a lacrosse friendly instead, on Wednesday.
Team Iroquois’ next scheduled game is against Japan on Saturday.
It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Team Iroquois will get there on time.
“Right now they’re just sitting there (in New York City), they’ll be allowed to go and play their games, or they’ll go home,” Mitchell said.
The team includes a lot of players from Akwesasne or with ties to the local communities, familiar names to lacrosse fans including Brett Bucktooth, Charles Jacobs, Cody Jamieson, Craig Point, James Cathers, Roger Vyse and Tom Montour.
But as noted in an in-depth report into the situation by the Post-Standard in Syracuse, despite lengthy negotiations in Washington D.C., and New York, the championships have begun without the people who invented the game.
The Native American team has travelled on Haudenosaunee passports issued by the Onondaga Nation (Syracuse area) for two decades, and the club has been trying to go overseas since Sunday.
The U.S. State Department agreed Wednesday to issue one-time waivers that would allow team members born in the U.S. to return to the U.S. after the tournament without U.S. passports.
But half of the Iroquois squad are Canadian-born players, and there was no similar deal made with the Canadian consulate before a scheduled flight from JFK.
Further complicating the issue is that British authorities were not willing to recognize the State Department waivers as valid travel documents. The British will only recognize U.S. or Canadian-issued passports.
Akwesasne Grand Chief Mitchell noted there’s been increasing international pressure to solve the problem, and salvage the rest of the tournament for the Iroquois Nationals.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the British to find some way to accomodate (the team),” Mitchell said. “It’s looking like it’s going to come down to the wire.”