President Joe Biden is advocating for the Indigenous nation that invented lacrosse to be able to play under its own flag during the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. This request will be announced at the White House Tribal Nations Summit.
Currently, teams are required to compete under the flag of an official national Olympic committee, but the president’s proposal would require the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make an exception for the Haudenosaunee Nationals. The Haudenosaunee have been competing as their own team in various international events since 1990.
Tom Perez, the White House senior adviser and director of intergovernmental affairs, expressed hope that the IOC would support this initiative. He stated, “If we’re successful, it won’t simply be the flag of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy that marches in the Olympics, it will be the flag of Indigenous people across the world.”
The Haudenosaunee, formerly known as the Iroquois, is a group of six Indigenous nations located in upstate New York and adjacent sections of Canada.
When the IOC announced the return of lacrosse to the Olympics in October, it reiterated its requirement for teams to compete under an established Olympic committee’s flag. It suggested that the U.S. and Canadian Olympic committees should find ways to include Indigenous athletes on their respective national teams.
However, carving out spots for Indigenous athletes on existing teams would create logistical challenges during the selection process. This was not the ultimate goal of Haudenosaunee leaders when they advocated for lacrosse’s return to the Olympics.
Leo Nolan, the executive director of the Haudenosaunee Nationals, explained that their ultimate goal is for the Haudenosaunee to win a gold medal. He acknowledged that navigating this situation would be delicate due to the complexities involved.
The Haudenosaunee Calls for Inclusion in the Olympics
The Haudenosaunee, currently ranked third in the world, strongly believes that they should have a place in the Olympic Games. Recognizing the significance of showcasing the best in every sport, they argue that their unique contribution to lacrosse deserves recognition on the international stage.
In their efforts to reintroduce lacrosse as a medal event at the upcoming Los Angeles Olympics for the first time since 1908, the organizers have emphasized the Indigenous history of the sport. This collaborative initiative between World Lacrosse, the sport’s international federation, and the Olympic Committee, aims to honor and celebrate the rich heritage of lacrosse.
Originally invented by Indigenous communities in northeastern North America around the year 1100, lacrosse played a vital role in their culture. The game, often involving over 100 players on each side, served not only as a means to prepare for conflicts but also as a religious practice and a mechanism for resolving disputes.
Expressing their commitment to pursuing all possible avenues for Haudenosaunee participation in the Olympics while respecting the Games’ framework, World Lacrosse released a statement. The organization emphasized their collaboration with the International Olympic Committee, LA28, and the U.S. and Canadian Olympic Committees.
Fawn Porter, a prominent Haudenosaunee player, also voiced her support and gratitude for the government’s backing. She believes that this endorsement will help propel their mission to bring the healing power of lacrosse to the global stage.
Notably, the Haudenosaunee have reached out to the White House to secure President Biden’s support. The United States is working closely with Canada to advocate for the inclusion of the Haudenosaunee in the 2028 Olympics. According to Perez, their spokesperson, it is inconceivable to find a worthier candidate for inclusion than the Haudenosaunee, considering their pivotal role in inventing the sport and their exceptionally skilled men and women athletes.
As the Haudenosaunee continue their journey to make their mark in the world of lacrosse, they eagerly await a positive outcome in their pursuit of Olympic participation.