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Iroquois lacrosse invited onto world stage

Craig Point (middle) celebrates with Randy Staats (right) and Iroquois teammates after a goal against Canada at the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship in Onondaga Nation. Iroquois took third place at the 2018 World Championships in Netanya, Isreal. (COURTESY IROQUOIS NATIONALS)

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The Irish national lacrosse team announced that they would voluntarily withdraw from the 2022 World Games last week.

The opening allowed the Iroquois Nationals to take their spot in the eight-team tournament, in Birmingham, Alabama in July 2022. They will compete against Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan and the United States.

“It’s simply the right thing to do,” said Michael Kennedy, Ireland coach in a World Games press release. “We are a proud member of World Lacrosse and we recognize the importance of The World Games to the continued growth of our sport. As much as our players would have been honoured to compete, we know the right thing is for the Iroquois Nationals to represent our sport on this international stage.”

The team plans to attend the 2021 World Lacrosse Men’s U20 World Championship at the University of Limerick in Ireland, on June 17-26. The Iroquois will have special plans for Ireland upon their arrival to show their gratitude.

Ireland’s act of sportsmanship has strengthened the already-strong bond between the two nations, expressed Leo Nolan, Nationals executive director.

“One of our board members, Rex Lyons, sent Michael Kennedy a really gracious thank you note,” he said. “We also plan on giving special recognition for Ireland before 2022, have some celebratory events and appreciate their understanding.”

The controversy to omit the Iroquois announced in late July sparked backlash from several Indigenous and allied communities. They were initially not invited since the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations did not recognize Haudenosaunee as a sovereign nation. They also did not have an Olympic committee. Nolan stated that having independence is something Indigenous people pride themselves upon.

“Certainly our brand is one of the most recognized brands. Our product, our jerseys and shorts typically sell out,” said Nolan. “We have our own passports, land and we govern ourselves. That whole revitalization of our culture is really important.”

A petition was created by Mi’kmaq Nation lacrosse player, Aidan Fearn, to include the Nationals, and it received over 50,000 signatures. The overwhelming support helped send a message to the governing bodies to allow the inventors of lacrosse to be involved in the Creator’s game.

“The support was not only from the world lacrosse community. but the Indigenous communities and everyone around the world,” said David Bray, Nationals board member. “It’s a spiritual game and our medicine game. We’re so honoured to be continuing the game to be spread across the world.”

Being eligible for the World Games is just another step for Haudenosaunee lacrosse on a global stage. They are aiming for eligibility at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, if lacrosse gets added as an event.

“We want to keep this interest going across the world. It’s important to all of our communities, not just us,” said Nolan. “We want to keep this momentum going. It’s good for the sport, the fans and the casual observer.”

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