July 17, 2012

Iroquois Nationals defeat USA

U19 World Championships: Iroquois' Upset of USA Illustrates Changing Face of International Lacrosse

By Jason DonvilleThe number of registered lacrosse players in the USA stands at close to 265,000, which is roughly four times the size of the entire population of the Iroquois nation. Although by far the smallest nation at the U19 World Lacrosse Championships, it is by far the most popular. This is not simply because they come from a small country, or that it took the players 37 hours to get to Finland or because they have the most amazing stick skills of any team in the tournament. No, it’s because when they are “on,” no team or nation can showcase the sport of lacrosse like the Iroquois can.

And Tuesday they were on, as Team Iroquois stunned Team USA with a 15-13 victory on Day 5 at the World U19 Lacrosse Championships in Finland.

Iroquois’ victory and Canada’s win against the USA earlier this week has illustrated the changing face of international lacrosse, in which USA’s dominance was up until recently a forgone conclusion. While Canada and much of Iroquois have long been adept at box lacrosse, it was only in the 1980s that each nation began developing its field programs.

The Canadians in particular were quick to adapt their offensive game to meet the standards of world lacrosse but they lagged behind in the development of defensive midfielders, defensemen and goalies. Over time, players like Virginia’s Chris Sanderson, Georgetown’s Brodie Merrill and Denver face-off specialist Geoff Snider emerged as top-level players in positions other than attack. Fortunately for Canadian lacrosse, they became teachers and/or coaches of the field game.

However, Canada and Iroquois have also benefited from having both a rich box lacrosse history and a close proximity to the U.S., Northeast.
What the victory means to Indians:

Iroquois Nationals Defeat United States–Win More than Respect

By Chase Iron EyesWhen the Iroquois Nationals defeat the USA, every little slight that originates from the USA’s mere presence in our homelands is made a little more bearable. We all walk a little taller. Every time we have been refused prompt service at a restaurant, every time we’ve endured drunk white people wearing hipster “war bonnets” doing the tomahawk chop, every time one of our kids is called a “dirty little Indian,” every time Americans overrun or deny access to our sacred sites with development or attempt to turn them into their vacation or recreation destinations, every time one of our kids is pressured by the education and media institutions to question their own indigenous dignity, the time our hearts sank when the British would not honor Haudenosaunee passports and prevented the Iroquois Nationals from world play, every time the Church does not own up to its past or a state outlaws lawsuits against past abuses, every time- every single time we endure, it is difficult--but we go on. When our people win, we can just live for a little bit, rejoice in the moment, let our defenses relax, and lift our hands in victory.

When we win in athletics and other arenas our hearts are lifted. Our spirits rise with an indelible pride whose source is our dignity as Mother Earth’s children. Go to any high school basketball game in any small town in any gym where an Indian team is playing. See the crowds come in great numbers, sometimes on borrowed gas money and ride-hitching, to a regular season game: adults, children, elders, and supporters. See those already frenzied crowds double in size and draw legitimate heart-felt support from other reservations inhabited by people who were once traditional enemies come to cheer each other on. It is no different with the Iroquois Nationals. We would see thousands of Indigenous people descend upon any city in the United States or Canada if the Iroquois Nationals competed in international competition on Turtle Island. That’s how we roll.
Comment:  The Nationals lost to the USA in a rematch and ended up winning the bronze medal.

For more on Indians and lacrosse, see Onondagas Support Crooked Arrows and Swarm Teaches Lacrosse to Native Kids.

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