Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois Nationals make sports history

They carried the spirits of their ancestors, the inventors of the fastest game on two feet. They carried the power of those Iroquois players who dominated the sport from the first Olympics until being blackballed in the 1930's.

They carried the hopes of the Iroquois who have maintained their status as citizens of their own nations who have insisted on their right to play the game on their own teams, traveling on their own passports and entering the stadiums under their own flag, the only all Native team to do so in any sport anywhere on the planet.

They are the Iroquois Nationals -- a bunch of teenagers coming from the Six Nations of the Iroquois, drawing from a miniscule but powerful talent pool in comparison to the U.S., Canada and the other nations at the 2012 Under 19 International Lacrosse Tournament.

In 1980, the U.S. hockey team at Lake Placid overcame the Soviets in an historical upset but the Americans had thousands of players to chose from, a fanatic hometown crowd, deep financial sources and months of practice.

The Iroquois Nationals has less than 100 players to select from, no pre-tournament games, virtually no money and are far from home. Yet these kids, all of whom were raised to play the faster, harder, more demanding box lacrosse game, refused to concede anything to the U.S. and despite being down a few goals dominated the game as only highly skilled players with an unmatched will, can do.

The U.S. plays typical field lacrosse and can be pushed off of its game if pressed with hard checking and suffocating defense. This is what the Iroquois do and despite the penalties from referees who are often stunned by the Native ferocity they showed their superior stick handling skills and exceptional physical conditioning.

For the Iroquois lacrosse is not an exclusive sport, a prerogative of the eastern elite. It is their game, played because it is what they do, who they are, where they belong.

Given this amazing victory, and its resonance across the sports world, there should be no reason why lacrosse should be excluded from the next Olympics and that these teenagers should not be carrying their national flag in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 representing the pride of aboriginal people everywhere.

Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is a co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association, a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian and the author of many books and articles about Native history and current issues. His latest book is "Iroquois on Fire". He may be reached via e-mail: Kanentiioaol.com. Kanentiio resides on Oneida Iroquois Territory in central New York State.

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