Iroquois Team Raises Profile in ID Fight

The World Lacrosse Championships are currently underway in Britain minus the North American team that's one of the best in the world in a collision of age-old principles of pride and sovereignty with modern-day security demands.

Lacrosse players representing the Iroquois Confederacy are the pride of a nation, CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor reports. They represent a council of six Native American tribes living in upstate New York and Canada, 125,000 people in all who consider themselves a nation apart from the United States.

With a host of former collegiate stars, including Syracuse's Sid Smith, the Iroquois Nationals are the No. 4 ranked team in the world.

They were supposed to be playing in the World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England, against 30 other countries, including the U.S., England and Canada.

"We're trying to stay positive, trying to stay as positive as we can and just stay focused," Nationals goalie Spencer Lyons said.

Last week both the U.S. and the U.K. said they would not honor Iroquois-issued passports, which have been used by the tribe since the mid-1970s, because they did not meet new post 9/11 security standards.

"We've been traveling on this for 30 years," Nationals executive director Percy Abrams said.

The State Department offered to expedite U.S. passports, but the Abrams and players said no, calling it an affront to their national heritage.

"It's a matter of national identity at this point," Abrams said. "We're traveling as the Iraquois Nationals."

Hopes were raised when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally intervened Thursday and issued a one-time travel waiver.

But officials in Britain rejected the compromise, and the Nationals were left in limbo. The closest they got to real competition was a scrimmage on Long Island.

All of it highlights a still-simmering standoff between the United States and 526 recognized native tribes over identification documents. Many have issued their own for decades that are no longer valid.

"This will be an ongoing discussion," said Tonya Frichner, United Nations representative for North American Indians. "There is no end to it, so it will continue."

After forfeiting two games and getting turned down again Saturday by the U.K., the Nationals have head home, but Scott Price of Sports Illustrated says even though didn't play, they still won.

"Mission accomplished for the Iroquois," said Price. "They wanted to show the world they were still here. That was the point of the Iroquois Nationals in the first place."

The Nationals hope to have their passport issues resolved in time for the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in the Czech Republic next year.

More Iroquois Coverage

Iroquois Lacrosse Team Bows Out of U.K. Tourney
Iroquois Lacrosse Team Defaults on First UK Game
British Government Refuses Iroquois Passports
Iroquois Team Barred from Boarding U.K. Flight
Iroquois Lacrosse Team Trapped in U.S.?

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.