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Why is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Not Allowed to Play Lacrosse in the 2022 World Games?

Lacrosse is a team sport considered the oldest organized game in North America. It traced its origins to Native Indians and was first played in the St. Lawrence Valley. Ironically, despite it originating from Native American culture, why are they excluded from playing in the 2022 World Games?   

Organizers of the 2022 World Games excluded the Iroquois team from the men’s lacrosse games despite them being the inventors of the game. They were excluded because they weren’t considered a “sovereign nation.”

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is known by many names like the Iroquois Confederacy, People of the Longhouse, and Iroquois League, Five Nations. They were initially formed by the union of the five original nations, People of the Flint, People of the Standing Stone, People of the Hills, People of the Great Swamp, and People of the Great Hill. And in 1722, the Nations were joined by the People of the Shirt.

The Confederacy traces its origin to the story of Dekanawidah, also known as the Peacemaker, between 15700 and 1600. It is said that the Peacemaker persuaded Hiawatha, an Onondaga living among Mohawks, to unite under peace, civil authority, righteousness, the great law, and their equal desire to stand against enemy invasion.

The union was a success, where 50 chiefs embraced all civil affairs on the intertribal level. The union stood out from other Native American confederacies because they were more organized and used elaborately ritualized systems to determine leaders and make critical decisions. They inhabited central and upper New York. (Source: Britannica)

Today, they are mostly found south of Syracuse, New York, and in some parts of Canada. They are an independent and sovereign nation that does not pay taxes or receive any US government benefits. (Source: Onondaga Nation)

The History of Lacrosse

Lacrosse traces its origin as early as 1100. Considered North America’s oldest team sport, the Haudenosaunee people were the first to play it. It was known that the earlier version of the sport consisted of 100 to 1,000 Native American men using wooden sticks and small deer-hide balls. Since there were no borders in the playing fields, sometimes games could span miles and last days.

In Native American oral traditions, the first game was played between birds and mammals, and that the sport was a gift from the Creator to be used both for entertainment and for medicine. When the French missionaries first witnessed the sport in the 1600s, they named lacrosse because they thought the sticks resembled the bishop’s cross.

The European settlers established stringent rules for the sport. It evolved to become Canada’s national sport in 1859, and in 1867, a Canadian dentist, George Beers, wrote its first rulebook.

In 1879, the US National Amateur Lacrosse Association was established by Canadian John Flannery. It was known as the fastest sport on two feet in 1921 by a Baltimore Sun sportswriter. At this time, the game takes place on an open field, where players use sticks with netting used to carry, pass and shoot a small rubber ball in the opposing team’s goal. (Source: History)

The 2022 World Games

The 2022 World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama. It is an eleven-day multi-sport event held every four years which features sports not included in the Olympics. The Games’ organizers did not send an invitation to compete to the Iroquois National men’s lacrosse team.

The organizers said that the team could not compete because they were not a sovereign nation, although the sport originated from the Iroquois people. This brought about outrage to the team. However, the Irish lacrosse team opted out of the Games to make way for the Iroquois team. They bowed out as a sign of respect to the sport’s history and the Iroquois people. (Source: NPR)

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