‘We’re diplomats by nature’: Iroquois Nationals hopeful for inclusion in 2022 World Games

The Iroquois Nationals, which represent the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in international field and box lacrosse, are hoping for a “diplomatic” resolution to the team’s exclusion from the 2022 World Games.

“We’re taking a positive approach. We’re diplomats by nature,” said Leo Nolan, executive director of the organization that oversees the team and its development group. 

“We’re going to make sure we’re properly recognized for who we are and what we are.”

The 11th edition of the World Games will be held in Birmingham, Ala., in July 2022. It will be the first time men’s field lacrosse will be included in the games. The Iroquois Nationals rank third internationally but the team was told by World Lacrosse that they’re ineligible to compete under International Olympic Committee rules.

The Iroquois Nationals came were the bronze medal winners in 2018 Men’s Field Lacrosse World Championship. (Canadian Lacrosse Association)

“Keeping us out of international competitions doesn’t serve anyone’s interests at all,” said Nolan.

“We’re ambassadors of the game. We’re the creators of the game. We’re the ones who brought it to the rest of the world and we want to keep going in that direction.”

A world championship of lacrosse, in any form, without the Haudenosaunee is not a world championship.– Jason Donville, director of the Canadian Lacrosse Association’s national teams

The team is made up of athletes from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations. It’s where the sport was born.

“We’re educating people along the way about treaties, about the game, about our lives. It’s a good way of sharing who we are. We’re not Americans. We’re not Canadians. We’re Haudenosaunee,” said David Bray, a member of the Iroquois Nationals’ board of directors. 

According to the Olympic Charter, the expression “country” means “an independent state recognised by the international community.” Nolan said he doesn’t want the rules to change, but to be interpreted differently as the team is recognized internationally.

“We have a passport and we cross international borders all the time but it’s never easy,” said Rex Lyons, another board of director for the team.

“We never ask permission to issue our passport because we don’t ask for permission to be sovereign. We just do it.”

Canadian Lacrosse Association supports team’s inclusion

A petition calling to support the team, started late last week, has garnered over 35,200 signatures. The petition calls on other states to offer support and refuse to participate in the World Games.

The Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) said it supports the inclusion of the Iroquois Nationals in the World Games and all multi-country events that are sanctioned by World Lacrosse.

“A world championship of lacrosse, in any form, without the Haudenosaunee is not a world championship,” said Jason Donville, director of the CLA’s national teams.

The 2019 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship was held in Langley, B.C. The Iroquois Nationals placed second, while Team Canada took the gold. (Canadian Lacrosse Association)

“The Haudenosaunee are at the centre of our sport in Canada,” Shawn Williams, president of the CLA, said in a statement.

“They are coaches, teachers, players and administrators in communities throughout Canada and generously share with the rest of the Canadian lacrosse community their wisdom of the game at both a technical and spiritual level.”

Boycotting the 2022 World Games is “one of many options” the CLA may choose to pursue but it is encouraging “all governing bodies to reconsider their ‘standards of participation’ to ensure that the Haudenosaunee participate in all multi-country events sanctioned by World Lacrosse.”