| What could be better than jumping back
into the international lacrosse arena after a year's break and winning
the first game in a championship series? Answer: Winning the first
three games in a championship series.
As of May 23, that was the Iroquois Nationals
Lacrosse team's status at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship
underway in Prague from May 21-28. The team is participating in
its first international competition since a controversial governmental
snafu last summer prevented them from traveling overseas on their
The opening game of the championship took
place on Saturday, May 21, with the team winning a resounding 23-3
over Ireland. That game took place on the heels of a six-hour overnight
flight, a five-hour lay-over in Zurich and a one-hour flight to
Prague. The next day they did it again with a 25-5 win over the
Czech Republic. And on Monday, the Iroquois Nations bested Team
USA in the third round of the playoffs in a thrilling 11-10 match.
The Nationals are now one game away from the championship match.
The semifinals take place this Friday, May 27, with the championship
match slated for Saturday.
The opening day win was significant for
the team, Iroquois head coach Duane Jacobs told the National Lacrosse
League. "It was a big moment for us," said Jacobs, who serves as
an assistant coach of the National Lacrosse League's Buffalo Bandits.
"To get here without any problems, it was a big relief when we got
off the plane. As for the game, we were a little bit rusty but we
played pretty well in stretches. We'll be trying to get better game
by game to prepare for the bigger games down the road."
The "problems" Jacobs alluded to occurred
last year when the team was prevented from traveling to England
to play in the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships because of a bureaucratic
snafu of major proportions by the U.S. and British governments.
The team and its 50-member delegation of coaches, family members
and supporters were scheduled to fly out of New York last July,
but both the U.S. and British governments refused to honor the Haundenosaunee
Confederacy passports that citizens of the Haundenosaunee (or Iroquois)
Confederacy's six nations have used for international travel for
more than three decades. The six nations include Onondaga, Mohawk,
Seneca, Oneida, Tuscarora, and Cayuga. While each nation is a separate
entity, they share a collective identity as Haundenosaunee and are
issued Haundenosaunee passports, rather than individual nation passports.
Both the U.S. and British governments said the passports didn't
meet new post-911 security standards.
Three days before the team was to leave
the British government announced it would not issue visas unless
the U.S. government gave assurance that the indigenous players would
be allowed to return to their homes through U.S. immigration
a request whose logic was elusive since the team's ancestors have
lived for millennia in the area of what is now known as north central
New York and there was no reason to think they would not return
to their homeland. Additionally, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights guarantees everyone the right to leave their country and
return to their country.
The U.S. State Department relented several
days later and agreed to a one time only waiver, assuring the British
that team members would be allowed to return home. But, in an inexplicable
turn around, the British then said the assurance was no longer good
and insisted that the players travel on U.S. or Canadian passports.
The State Department had offered to issue U.S. passports
an impossible request, Oren Lyons, Onondaga Faithkeeper and honorary
chair of the Iroquois Lacrosse board of directors, said at the time.
"While we are deeply disappointed we could
not bring our talented team to the world championships, there simply
was no way we could accede to the recommendation that we accept
either American or Canadian passports to travel. The Haundenosaunee
passports we travel on like the game of lacrosse itself which
our ancestors invented are essential to our identity as a
sovereign people making our way in the world community."
The Iroquois believe that the game of
lacrosse was a gift from the Creator and so it is an integral part
of the Iroquois social, cultural and spiritual heritage. Little
lacrosse sticks are said to be placed in babies' cribs. The game
is ancient; French missionaries documented the game in 1636. Games
back then were played on huge fields that could be miles long and
could last for days. The game was played until one team scored two
of the three or three of the five goals. Lacrosse was also was also
described as a very important medicine ceremony, according to the
Iroquois Nationals' web site.
There were no problems traveling with
their Iroquois passports to Prague.
"Getting over the border with our passports
is really big," player Jeff Shattler said in a Canadian Press report.
"It's nice to be here. It's a blast to be out there on the floor.
Who would have thought we'd be in Prague playing lacrosse? Travelling
with these guys is an awesome experience. It's great for Team Iroquois
to be represented here with our passports. That's a huge movement
for lacrosse and for our nation."
Three Oneida Indian Nation leaders have
traveled to Prague to support team and honor its spiritual origin
Oneida Nation Representative and CEO Ray Halbritter, Wolf
Clan Representative Chuck Fougnier and Bear Clan Representative
Brian Patterson. The Oneida Nation helped sponsor the team's trip
to Prague, Halbritter said.
A number of factors combined to encourage
the three leaders to attend their first lacrosse championship to
watch and cheer on the Iroquois team, Halbritter said.
"I think the fact that we're sponsoring
the team peaked our interest, and the diplomatic dispute over the
passports last year unfortunately kept them from competition in
Great Britain, and also because of the special significance lacrosse
has to us," Halbritter said. In February, the nation hosted the
National Lacrosse League All Star Game comprised of some of the
best professional lacrosse players in the nation. "And some of them
were part of the Iroquois nations including our own Oneida Nation,
so all of this works together to help with our interest in attending
The nation posted a note congratulating
the team for its "thrilling victory over the USA" on Monday. "The
Nationals remain undefeated in the tournament and are serving as
great ambassadors for the Creator's game," the posting said. Two
members of the Oneida Nation, Brett Bucktooth and Ron Cogan are
members of the Iroquois Nations and are participating in the tournament.
They come equipped with new
lacrosse heads, skill and enthusiasm.
"It's our pleasure to be here," Halbritter
said. "We're just really excited and very happy that we were able
to come and we really wish the team the best. We're behind them
all the way and we know that they'll represent all American Indians
very well. We're very proud of them," Halbritter said.
The Iroquois are the originators of the modern day game of Lacrosse.
Shrouded in time, Lacrosse was played among the Confederacy long
before the coming of the Europeans to the shores of North America.
It can be said that when the Europeans first came to America, Lacrosse
was one of the most popular and widespread games played across the
continent and with many variations. The long stick game played internationally
today belongs to the Iroquois.