YouTube: Intro to WILC 2015
WILC: Bringing Honor to All Natives
By Doug George-Kanentiio When the Onondaga Nation elected to host the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship it went all in. Long a bastion of aboriginal sovereignty, the Onondaga Nation is its own self defining entity, rejecting any American law which in any way qualifies its right to self determination. No tribal or band councils here, no Indian Act or Indian Reorganization Act, no New York State laws or the compromises in their status as a nation and none of the glaring contradictions between what Native leaders espouse in the way of sovereignty and the truth that, almost without exception, "first nations" and tribes in the US derive their status from powers other than their own. To understand why the Onondaga decided to become the first true indigenous nation, anywhere, to host a planetary sports event it is necessary to understand that their home territory south of Syracuse may be small at 7,000 acres but its stands independent and free.
Oren Lyons, the Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, announces the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on April 6, 2015. Photo from Facebook
What better way to attract international attention and enhance their standing among the nations of the world than this? Whatever resources the Onondagas have given to the tournament it will bring many benefits in years to come both local and across the continent. It is no coincidence that the money the Onondagas have spent in recent years on lacrosse is now reaping dividends among their people and across the Iroquois Confederacy. The talent for mastering this most physical of games was always there but in the last decade the Onondagas have sparked a new interest in lacrosse and have now produced some of the finest players in the world with many team championships following these athletes. As Onondaga spiritual leader Tracy Shenandoah, a former highly skilled lacrosse player, remarked, 'the games bring honor to the Onondaga Nation, the Haudenosaunee and to all Native people on Turtle Island."
Players from the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team. Photo from Facebook
He is right. On Thursday, September 17 the Onondagas hosted a gala dinner for the players, national celebrities and regional supporters. They invited former National Football League player Jim Brown, a Hall of Famer, to address the audience. He did so by praising his friend Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, like Brown an All American lacrosse player. Brown played midfield (kiddie) while Lyons was the goaltender. As good as he was a football player Lyons said he was better with the stick. Brown recalled the 1957 season when their Syracuse University team was undefeated. He said Lyons was key to that remarkable season and was noted for his skills not only at stopping shots but making a fast break towards the other team, just a step or two behind Brown. Brown praised Lyons as one of the greatest human and ecological advocates in modern times before he brought Lyons to the stage. The affection between the two was obvious and has endured for almost 60 years.
Oren Lyons welcomes former vice president Al Gore to the Onondaga Nation for the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. Photo from Twitter
Attending the event was former US vice-president Al Gore and many regional politicians. The 13 teams, with the exception of a late Team Canada, were acknowledged with Anishnabe comedian Don Kelley serving as host-a very funny man who brought a video showing his tryout with the Six Nations Arrows lacrosse team. Credit must also be given to the Onondagas for the meal served to their hundreds of guest as they showed the best in Native cuisine: buffalo, salmon, an assortment of berries and traditional Iroquois corn bread. The Onondagas showed they could sponsor a fancy banquet on par with anyone else-not that they had to but it was good to see the professionalism of the staff, the diversity of the menu and the quality of the setting itself adjacent to the Nation Arena. To make absolutely sure the games would remain at Onondaga they built a new outdoor arena to replace the old one and thereby assured themselves that the flow of talent would continue. Doug George-Kanentiio is an Akwesasne Mohawk currently residing on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.
Related StoriesDoug George-Kanentiio: In the golden era of Iroquois lacrosse (08/12)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois Nationals make sports history (07/18)
Join the Conversation