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Lacrosse Must Be Returned to the Olympics

by Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk

Now that the Olympics have concluded it is time to consider what can be done to include Canada's national sport: lacrosse.
Our team, The Iroquois Nationals, have tried for the past 30 years to restore lacrosse to the Olympics. Despite the rapid growth in the game which now includes dozens of nations the International Olympic Committee and the Federation of International Lacrosse have yet to come together to decide when, not if, lacrosse is once again returned to the Games.

It was a medal sport in 1904 and 1908 with Canada winning gold both times. In the 1904 Games the Mohawk Nation sent its own team which won bronze with the Americans taking silver.

The game surely ranks with water polo, badminton and synchronized swimming in terms of athletic ability and excitement.  It should also be equal to the new additions to the Olympics in 2020: skateboarding, surfing and rock climbing.

Perhaps the main reason it waits on the sidelines is political. The Iroquois Nationals are group which plays at the highest levels but because we use our own passports and fly our own flag we represent a direct challenge to the colonial laws imposed upon us by the US and Canada. Ours is the only all-indigenous sports team with international standing in the world and as such we give hope to Natives everywhere.

Therein lies the challenge for the sport.  Canada refers to indigenous communities as "first nations" when in truth the governing entities on all Native territories are band councils created by the federal government and imposed using force upon aboriginal nations. The same in the US which has over 300 treaties with Native nations (treaties which are, according to the US Constitution the supreme law of the land) but has undermined and destroyed indigenous governance through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and the termination statutes of 1953 and the relocation of tens of thousands of Natives from their homes to urban areas across the country.


When efforts were made by the indigenous people to have the US and Canada acknowledge past mistakes and actually commit to self determination as exemplified by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples those two colonial powers joined Australia and New Zealand in refusing to adopt what had been an almost universal approval by the 200 other nations of the world.


Only last year did the federal government in Canada agree that the Declaration should be enacted into law which should mean that it is now prepared to honor the country's true "national sport" by supporting the Iroquois Nationals, the inventors of the game, in their quest to enter the Olympics as a distinct people.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau merits great credit for bringing a new vigor, a new approach to aboriginal relations. Having him pick up the stick and insist the game be acknowledged for  its history and current status would be of tremendous benefit to every Native kid looking for aboriginal sports heroes.


Having US President Barrack Obama do the same before his term concludes in January of next year would insure the restoration of lacrosse to its rightful place as a global sport played by hundreds of thousands.

For my family it is personal. My uncle Angus 'Shine" George was among the best player in the 1930's but the closest he ever got to Olympic glory was part of an all Native team competing in the "exhibition" category in Los Angeles in 1932.

But enough of the delays. Lacrosse belongs in the Olympics. Its time has come. There is no sustainable reason for its exclusion. Canada's national game must be restored to the Games and the Iroquois Nationals free to march into the stadium under their own banner at the 2024 Olympiad.


Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the former editor of the journal Akwesasne Notes and a co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian. He is the author of "Iroquois on Fire" among other books. E-mail address: Phone: 315-415-7288. His address: 2 Elm Court, Akwesasne, ON K6H 5R7.