Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team headed to 2022 World Games

Ireland's team voluntarily dropped out of the event to make space for the world's number 3-ranked Iroquois team
iroquois nationals The Iroquois Nationals compete against Canada in 2015. (Iroquois Nationals)

The World Games happen every four years as an international showcase of sports that are not part of the Summer Olympics. When the 2022 World Games happen in Birmingham, Alabama, men's lacrosse will be a featured sport for the first time ever.

And now, thanks to petitions and protests, the Iroquois Nationals team will be one of the eight countries playing.

This team had originally been told it would not be allowed to attend. But a petition with over 35,000 signatures, as well as the support of the other top international teams in the sport, put pressure on World Lacrosse and the World Games to reverse their decision.

The nation they play for

The Iroquois Nationals represent the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (say HOH-dehn-oh-SHO-nee) in international field lacrosse. This Indigenous collective—also known as the Iroquois or Six Nations—is made up of several nations, including Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, and Tuscarora.

But even though the Nationals are the third-ranked team in international field lacrosse, the International Olympic Committee (or IOC, which runs the World Games) said that the Iroquois were not eligible to compete as their own country. The Haudenosaunee live on lands that are within the borders of both Canada and the United States, but issue their own passports and have their own government within each country.

It is their game

iroquois nationals lacrosse

Every sport has a beginning. Lacrosse started with the Indigenous peoples of North America as The Creator's Game. (Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to having their own sovereignty—or right to govern themselves—the Iroquois Nationals have another right to be playing lacrosse at these games. The Haudenosaunee invented the sport.

Lacrosse was first played centuries ago by members of the Six Nations, as a gift from The Creator. Originally, the game could feature as many as 1,000 players and last for days! It was more than just a sport—it was a symbolic ritual and an important part of their culture.

Since then, the sport's rules have changed and the game has expanded around the world. But the world's best players and teams are still found in North America—the current world rankings have the United States, Canada, and Iroquois Nationals as the top three teams.

Ireland makes way

As both originators and one of the world's best teams, the Nationals clearly belonged at the World Games. The international lacrosse community recognized this. That's why so many players and teams came together to demand that they be included.

But in the end, for the Iroquois to be added, one other team would have to leave. That team was the Ireland men's lacrosse team—two weeks ago, they willingly gave up their spot at the World Games which cleared the way for the Nationals.

Like so many events during this pandemic, sports have had their share of ups and downs. Some leagues have found a way to march on, while the 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed. But this story is a reminder of the ways in which sports really matter.

As Iroquois Nationals executive director Leo Nolan told the CBC: "This is more than a game—it's our heritage, our history, our medicine and our sovereignty."

Watch this clip of Ireland's Luke Moloney and the Iroquois' Chase Scanlan talk about what the decision meant to each of them and how they're looking to be even stronger together in the future.

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  1. I like to play soccer. I like to play snooker. I like to play basketball. We think it’s cool that the Iroquois will play the World’s in 2022.

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