Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It is played in nearly 100 countries and believed to be North America’s oldest sport. In the 2028 Olympic Games, there will be a medal for lacrosse. The Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-SHOW-nee) Nationals lacrosse team aim to be included in those games. Despite thriving in lacrosse play, they may not be eligible for the Olympics.
The Haudenosaunee Nationals lacrosse team represents the six nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Those nations are the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and the Tuscarora. These are sovereign nations spread across upstate New York and parts of Canada. For them, lacrosse is more than a game or sport. It has important meaning and value.
Native Americans created lacrosse. Native Americans from different regions and nations played variations of lacrosse since the 12th century. They played the game long before European settlers arrived in North America. Lacrosse was an important part of Native American life. It held significant and symbolic meanings.
Lacrosse represented ways to avoid war as well as prepare for war. It symbolized communal harmony. Native Americans also believed lacrosse was sacred or a gift from the creator. It was something that brought people together. Lacrosse also represented the principles Native American societies valued.
It is this history that fuels the Haudenosaunee push for official recognition from the world sports community. It also drives their desire to appear at the 2028 Olympic Games. The Haudenosaunee men’s team formed in 1983. It was known as the Iroquois Nationals until 2022. Lacrosse’s international governing body officially recognized them in 1988. They officially recognized the women’s team in 2008. Both teams have thrived on the field. Despite their outstanding play and sacred history to lacrosse, they have struggled to be recognized on the world stage.
The Haudenosaunee are not part of the United Nations (UN) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Despite not being a member of the UN, the Haudenosaunee may have a possible pathway to IOC membership. To be recognized by the IOC, the Haudenosaunee would have to set up a National Olympic Committee. They would also need to form four teams in other sports. Some suggest that the IOC could give the Haudenosaunee a special invitation to the games. This invitation would be like invitations sometimes extended to teams of refugees. Whatever the IOC decides, the Haudenosaunee will continue to be an important part of lacrosse.
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