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Doug George-Kanentiio: A historic opening for lacrosse games

Haudenosaunee dancers performed on September 18, 2015, at the opening ceremony of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship games being hosted by the Onondaga Nation in New York. Photo from Facebook

World Indoor Lacrosse Championship Ceremony an Historic Event
By Doug George-Kanentiio

On Friday, September 18, the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship held its opening ceremony before a sell out crowd of 7,000 plus at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, New York

The organizers of the event elected to retain the arena since it doubled the number of people able to witness what Tadodaho Sid Hill called an historic event since it was the first time a Native nation has ever hosted a planetary games of this size.

The Onondaga Nation is hosting the games with additional corporate and individual sponsors.

The audience witnessed a 80 minute event which featured an animated summation of two crucial events in Iroquois history; the coming of Skywoman to this world and the work of Skennenrahowi, the Peacemaker, to end warfare among human beings.

A scene from the opening ceremony of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on September 18, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Both stories cited lacrosse as one of the ways peace was maintained.

The first part of the ceremony animated sequence was created by Anishnabe-Seneca artist Jonathan Thunder, a graduate of the Institute for the American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, now residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each scene was part of the Creation and Peacemaker story outline by this writer with a script by Tuscarora educator Rick Hill. Narration was by Clayton Logan, Seneca, and Joanne Shenandoah, Oneida.

The overall show was coordinated by Erick Weiss of Honeysweet Productions in Los Angeles, California, and Rob Mishica of CCG Productions in Minneapolis, with Gayle Kelley, a California based producer, leading the team.

A large part of the show was the use of Iroquois dancers: over 45 men, women and children formed a large circle around a center stage and for over an hour welcomed the 13 competing teams. Brought together by Norm Jemison, Seneca, the dancers had rehearsed over two days under the creative direction of Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell, a Syracuse based choreographer.

The Iroquois Nationals team enters the arena at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on September 18, 2015. Photo from Facebook

The creative team also elected to have Elmer John and Craig Rueben, both of the Seneca Nation, to perform as the Skywoman's grandchildren the Twins. John played the part of Flint while Rueben countered as his brother Sapling, sparring and fighting until they were able to play lacrosse.

The producers used a rectangular floor to ceiling set of screens to project Jonathan Thunder's animated figures highlighting Iroquois history and the birth of the game.

Once John and Rueben completed their sequence they quickly changed into Iroquois men from the 1750's era and returned to the arena escorting football legend Jim Brown and Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons to center stage. Lyons, along with the officials from the International Lacrosse Federation, summarized the modern games and ILF's decision in 1985 to acknowledge the Iroquois Nationals as full members, able to compete in most nations.

The show itself was a surprise to the fans as the writers and producers sought to create a show which actually told a story with continuity.

The Iroquois Nationals defeated the United States 13-19 on September 18, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Each team was led into the arena by a volunteer dressed in Iroquois style while the cheering continued on throughout the event. The loudest noise came when the Iroquois Nationals came out of their dressing rooms, ready to take on the USA team.

While the first game went in favor of the Iroquois 13-9 the team was confronted bb the four time winner of fewer Canada in September and they were ready fighting back from an 8-4 deficit to a 11-9 victory.

Each team will compete in at least 5 contests leading to the gold medal game at the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University on September 27.

Doug George-Kanentiio is an Akwesasne Mohawk currently residing on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.

Related Stories:
Doug George-Kanentiio: Onondaga Nation hosts lacrosse games (9/22)
Doug George-Kanentiio: In the golden era of Iroquois lacrosse (08/12)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois Nationals make sports history (07/18)

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