The Haudenosaunee Nationals' quest to play under their own flag at the Olympics | Olympic Games | The Guardian


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Via:  kavika  •  4 weeks ago  •  1 comments

By:   Mathew Foresta (the Guardian)

The Haudenosaunee Nationals' quest to play under their own flag at the Olympics | Olympic Games | The Guardian
Joe Biden has backed a Native American lacrosse team's bid to compete at the Los Angeles Games in 2028. But IOC rules stand in their way

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Joe Biden has backed a Native American lacrosse team's bid to compete at the Los Angeles Games in 2028. But IOC rules stand in their way

Lacrosse is returning to the Olympics in 2028, and the Haudenosaunee Nationals have no intention of watching from the sidelines. The team represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the sport's birthplace, which straddles the US-Canadian border and is made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga people. The Haudenosaunee Nationals' Olympic campaign in 2028 wouldn't be a first. In 1904 a team of Mohawk players took part in the St Louis Olympics, but they were officially representing Canada. Now these longtime contenders on the international scene seek to make history and play under their own flag at Los Angeles 2028, making them the first North American Indigenous nation to do so.

"[Lacrosse] is part of our existence," says Leo Nolan, executive director of the Nationals. "It's us, so it's as important as anything else in our lifestyle, who we are. It's about who we are, so it's absolutely important for us to contribute this game to the rest of the world."

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The Nationals' bid for a place at LA 2028 got a major endorsement when Joe Biden offered his support in December.

"Their ancestors invented the game. They perfected it for millennia. Their circumstances are unique. And they should be granted an exception to field their own team at the Olympics," Biden said.

Nolan said that while they didn't directly seek out Biden's endorsement, it was greatly appreciated.

As Nolan points out, the Haudenosaunee Nation has always been independent, something that boosts their mission to compete in the Olympics. He highlights their treaties with the US, France, Great Britain, New York state and the Netherlands as examples of the nation's independence.

This history of Haudenosaunee independence is matched by the long and illustrious record of Indigenous people at the Olympics. The Sac and Fox Nation's Jim Thorpe, a professional baseball and football player, won two golds in Stockholm in 1912. In 1964 Lakota Marine Billy Mills shocked the track world by taking gold in the 10,000m. Cathy Freeman's victory in the 400m at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was seen as a defining moment for Aboriginal Australians, and was recently voted the top moment in the country's sporting history by Guardian readers.

Karuk ice dancer Naomi Lang stands among those trailblazers. In 2002 she became the first Native American woman to compete in the Winter Olympics, where she and her partner placed 11th.

"It was the coolest feeling. Knowing that you're making history, and doing it for my tribe was such an amazing feeling," she says.

Lang feels that the relationship between the Olympics and Indigenous peoples has been respectful. She says fellow competitors were intrigued by her Karuk heritage, and she never faced discrimination.

That said the story is not all rosy. The 1904 St Louis Olympics, the first Games held in the US, featured Anthropology Days, a racist spectacle that put people of color, including Native Americans, on display in a zoo-like environment, while Canadian First Nations' response to Vancouver 2010 was mixed at best. Meanwhile Abenaki scholar Christine O'Bonsawin has been critical of athletes being forced to compete for colonizing nations.

But Nolan says that there has been growth and learning, and compliments the Olympics for reinstating Thorpe's medals in 2022.

The Haudenosaunee would not be the first country whose independence the UN does not recognize to compete at the Games. Examples abound, including Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, Palestine, Taiwan, and Aruba. Indeed, there are more National Olympic Committees than recognized UN countries but the Haudenosaunee are not among them, which makes inclusion in 2028 a long-shot at the moment.

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The IOC told the Guardian that "only National Olympic Committees (NOCs) recognized by the IOC can enter teams for the Olympic Games in accordance with the Olympic Charter." The IOC said it would be up to Canada and the US to include Haudenosaunee athletes on their squads.

If the IOC does end up allowing the Haudenosaunee Nationals to compete in 2028, Nolan says it will be of huge symbolic importance, proving the Games care about inclusion and ensuring the best athletes are represented. He says World Lacrosse has been engaging with the IOC and he remains optimistic of seeing the Haudenosaunee in LA. Lang thinks they would be supported by Native People across the globe, and serve as an inspiration to young athletes.

"For Indigenous people to represent their own tribe, would be huge. It would just give us acknowledgment that we were here, we still are here, and we're still strong," she says.

After her father passed away three years ago, Lang became more connected to her roots. She says giving a Native athletes the choice to represent their Indigenous nation would be a big deal.

"There's just so much I've learned in the past three years. Now, I would absolutely say 100% I would represent the Karuk Tribe if I was competing," she says.

If the Haudenosaunee, who won a bronze medal at the men's world lacrosse championships in June, get that opportunity at the Olympics, Nolan believes they can take it all the way and win gold.

"I don't think about it," he says. "I know we can."

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1  seeder  Kavika     4 weeks ago

Finally, the sport is coming back to the Olympics after being absent for decades. Now is the time because of their unique relationship to the sport, (being inventors of it) and the powerful teams they produce from a small population would be a salute to the people that invented the game and the game being a powerful part of their culture. Lacrosse is known to Indians as the ''Medicine Game'' or ''The Creators Game'' and as one of the top three teams in the world, The US, and Canada, and the team represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the sport's birthplace.


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