Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team to compete in 2022 World Games after initial exclusion

The Iroquois Nationals, which represent the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in international field lacrosse, will be among eight men’s lacrosse teams competing in the 2022 World Games after they were originally excluded.

Ireland withdraws its team to ensure no barriers to Iroquois Nationals entering competition

The Iroquois Nationals are seen at the opening ceremony for the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. After initially being excluded, the team will now compete in the 11th edition of the World Games held in Birmingham, Ala., in July 2022. (Iroquois Nationals)

The Iroquois Nationals, which represent the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in international field lacrosse, will be among eight men's lacrosse teams competing in the 2022 World Games after they were originally excluded.

"We're very pleased that we will be competing," said Leo Nolan, executive director of the organization that oversees the team and its development group.

"Without us, it would have been a very different kind of tournament."

The 11th edition of the World Games will be held in Birmingham, Ala., in July 2022, and it will be the first time men's lacrosse will be included in the games. 

The Iroquois Nationals team was originally told they were ineligible to compete under International Olympic Committee rules. It is unclear what would have prevented the team from competing under those rules. 

The team is made up of athletes from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which includes the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk), Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora nations. 

The Haudenosaunee invented lacrosse. They call it a medicine game as a gift from the Creator, to be played for his enjoyment and for healing.

"We're the originators of the game," said Nolan. "The Creator gave us this game and a part of the responsibility is to share the game with others." 

After an international movement of support was sparked for the team, with many other organizations working to try to find a solution, World Lacrosse announced on Monday the Iroquois Nationals are now among the teams invited to compete.

"It's been a long road for the Iroquois Nationals. We've had some hurdles to go over and this most recent one, we're just glad the right thing is being done," said David Bray, a member of the team's board of directors.

"It's been an inspiration to see the world lacrosse community, the world Indigenous community, all stand behind us to get to this point again. We look forward to continuing our efforts on the field."

The Iroquois Nationals were the bronze medal winners in the 2018 Men’s Field Lacrosse World Championship. (Canadian Lacrosse Association)

The Iroquois Nationals, Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan and the United States are the eight teams competing.

World Lacrosse said the teams were finalized after the International World Games Association confirmed that the Iroquois Nationals were eligible to compete, no objections were received from the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Lacrosse Association, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee or U.S. Lacrosse, as well as a decision by Ireland Lacrosse to voluntarily withdraw from the tournament.

"This is a very good day, and outcome, for the sport of lacrosse," said World Lacrosse President Sue Redfern.

"We have arrived at an outcome that will create a true showcase for lacrosse at the World Games 2022 in Birmingham. This was achieved by our organizations coming together, listening carefully and working constructively to reach a shared goal."

'It was the right thing to do'

Last week, Ireland Lacrosse voluntarily vacated its men's senior national team's position in the World Games 2022 to ensure there would be no barriers to the Iroquois Nationals entry to the tournament. The association said it was "the right thing to do." 

Ireland finished 12th in the 2018 men's world championship.

"We recognized that there was a problem with us going and with the Iroquois being number three in the world and not being deemed eligible for this event," said Catherine Conway, communications director for Ireland Lacrosse and assistant coach for the women's senior national team.

"We felt really strongly that just putting another graphic on social media saying we support the Iroquois was not the appropriate thing to do because talk is cheap. We very much felt that action was necessary."

Nolan said "it was the right thing to do for lacrosse in general."

"We are certainly very thankful and have a great amount of respect for Ireland," he said. 

The top eight eligible women's lacrosse teams invited to the World Games will be based upon final placement in the 2021 World Lacrosse Women's World Championship, which takes place in Maryland next summer.

The women's team representing the Haudenosaunee Confederacy will now be eligible for selection.


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.