Opinion | Sports

Doug George-Kanentiio: Onondaga Nation brings honor to us all

Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, far right, with members of the Photo from Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team. Photo from Iroquois Nationals / Facebook

World Indoor Lacrosse Tournament
Another Rafter to the Haudenosaunee
By Doug George-Kanentiio

The recently concluded World Indoor Lacrosse Championship has brought honor and pride to the Onondaga Nation and they deserved all of the allocates they received.

By doing so the Onondagas added another rafter to our symbolic longhouse and strengthened us all.

With its $10 million price tag the Onondaga Nation proved it was willing to give its physical resources not only towards the event itself but to the practical application of aboriginal sovereignty. The games were never merely symbolic but an assertion of a distinct Native identity which is based on the Nation's status as a true nation.

This was acknowledged by every American political leader who either attended the ten day event or was welcomed to the Nation's territory and by the participating teams representing 12 other nations, all of whom went through the process of having their passports stamped, and therefore endorsed, by the Onondagas.

The Iroquois Nationals fell to Canada in the final game of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on September 28, 2015. Photo from WILC / Facebook

No other Native governing entity in North America has the courage and the determination to do likewise.

As Onondaga Roterihonton (faith keeper) Oren Lyons has said, repeatedly, around the world "true sovereignty is the act thereof." The Onondaga Nation so acted and in doing so strengthened indigenous causes around the planet.

The Iroquois Nationals won silver against a larger Canadian team marked by stifling defense and stunning goaltending. The Iroquois were faster with better stick handling but the Canadians created a defensive wall and pressed the Iroquois to the edges where their shots on net were far less likely to get past their goaltender.

The gold medal match was close (12-8) with assurances that in four years the Iroquois will be back. Most of the players on both teams are familiar with each other, often playing on the same teams either as members of the National Lacrosse League or at box lacrosse tournaments across Canada.

Most of the Iroquois players are Mohawks from the Ohsweken Territory, champions in their own right whether as Six Nations Chiefs, Rebels, Rivermen or Arrows.

Members of the Iroquois Nationals during the final game of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on September 28, 2015. Photo from WILC / Facebook

Not enough can be said about the Onondaga contingent led by the Thompson brothers, often cited as the best players in today's game. Raised at Akwesasne and educated at the Mohawk immersion Akwesasne Freedom School, they know the game in all of its aspects either as a spiritual activity or as a collegiate contest. Respect permeates their game which is now effecting how younger players see the sport.

But there was something missing during the tournament and that was the active support of many of the other Iroquois communities. Questions were asked beginning with that since these were the Iroquois Nationals and a team which has brought such pride to most Iroquois people should not their respective councils endorsed the team? Should they have allocated resources for the games?

Most did not. Some, like the St. Regis Tribal Council, rejected the Nationals since, according to one source, they were upset not enough Akwesasne Mohawks were on the team. The truth is most of the Nationals are Mohawks but from Ohsweken which has, without doubt, produced the best box lacrosse players over the past decade. The next generation of Nationals may well come from Akwesasne but the best we had were on the floor during the WILC.

Since the St. Regis Tribe is not a part of the Haudenosaunee (it was created and imposed upon the Mohawks by New York State in 1892) it may have felt apart but the truth, which the Tribe must admit, is that whatever Mohawk identity or culture it uses, or exploits, is the result of the efforts by the Mohawk Nation Council (the traditional system) and its supporters to sustain that identity, often against the opposition of the Tribe itself.

It would have been better to see the tangible effects of the WILC and have given encouragement to the team rather than whine about the roster.

Medals awarded during the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. Photo from Onondaga Nation / Twitter

So too with the Oneida Nation of New York,established in 1993 against the specific instructions of the Haudensoaunee. The Oneida Nation does not have chiefs, there are no acknowledged clan mothers and ancestral laws have been brutally suppressed. They refused the Nationals because, despite its enormous wealth, the Oneida Nation opposes the Onondaga Nation and does not feel it is part of the Haudenosaunee.

No, it is not by its own design yet it does not stop the Oneida Nation from using the collective culture and/or rights of the Confederacy whenever it is convenient to do so.

Perhaps if its "leadership" was wiser they could have seen the WILC as a unique opportunity to begin to heal old wounds and move closer to their Iroquois kin.

Other Iroquois councils simply ignored the tournament although individuals from Southwold to Kanesatake went to Onondaga to watch the games. From this they felt pride in what the Nationals did and how they conducted themselves even if they came but a few shots shorts of the gold. They wore the purple and white shirts and waved the Haudenosaunee flag.

For the the days of the WILC they were all Iroquois and rightly so and for this every one of us must thank the Onondaga Nation.

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

Related Stories:
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois Nationals score silver at games (9/28)
Doug George-Kanentiio: A historic opening for lacrosse games (9/24)
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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