The Haudenosaunee Nationals just received their most significant endorsement for Olympic inclusion.
On Wednesday, at the White House Tribal Nations Summit, U.S. President Joe Biden voiced his full-throated support for the Haudenosaunee Nationals to field their own lacrosse team at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.
President Biden joins World Lacrosse, the LA28 organizing committee, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee in their united call for the Haudenosaunee Nationals to be granted permission to participate in the upcoming summer Olympics in 2028 despite not having their own national Olympic committee.
“The Six Nations team (the Haudenosaunee Nationals) asked to compete under its own tribal flag, and today, I’m announcing my support for that request,” President Biden said. “Their ancestors invented the game. They perfected it for millennia. Their circumstances are unique. They should be granted an exception to field their own team at the Olympics.”
During President Biden’s nearly 13-minute address to the distinguished Indigenous delegates in attendance, no part of his remarks were met with more resounding (and nearly continuous) applause than when he spoke about lacrosse.
President Biden made sure to note his familiarity with lacrosse, stating that he went to Syracuse University, “long the home of a powerhouse lacrosse program.” He also said that his daughter played lacrosse in high school, and his niece was an All-American at Harvard University.
“I can’t think of a more worthy candidate for inclusion than a confederation that literally invented the sport and has some of the most elite men and women in the sport in their nation,” Tom Perez, White House senior advisor and director of intergovernmental affairs later told the Associated Press.
President Biden and Mr. Perez are correct in their comments. Lacrosse was a gift given to Indigenous people by The Creator. Recorded history tells us that the origins of lacrosse go back around a thousand years, but the game’s roots likely far preceded that. Lacrosse is so much more than that to the Indigenous people. It is often considered a deeply ingrained part of their culture that is introduced to them at birth.
As part of being given this gift, Indigenous people share it with the world. There are currently 91 members of World Lacrosse spread across the globe. Lacrosse is now played on every continent, excluding Antarctica. Most of those members were first recognized by World Lacrosse within the last 20 years.
World Lacrosse Men’s Championship opening ceremony at Snapdragon Stadium (Photo courtesy of World Lacrosse)
Leo Nolan, who is the executive director of the Haudenosaunee Nationals, is one of many Indigenous members who was pleasantly surprised when he heard that President Biden was going to make his comments on Olympic inclusion.
“We certainly didn’t ask for this, but we certainly appreciate it because we know there’s a lot of political things going on with other groups,” Nolan said. “We are very honored and pleased that a person of his kind of stature has the opportunity to become a fan of lacrosse.”
President Biden would be in for a treat if he had the privilege of watching the Haudenosaunee Nationals at the 2028 Summer Olympics. Aside from being the first to ever play lacrosse, the Indigenous men and women on their respective teams are some of the best lacrosse players in the world. World Lacrosse has the Haudenosaunee Nationals men’s team currently ranked as the third-best team in the world, while the women’s team ranks eighth.
While the version of the sport played at the Olympics will look different from the field or box game that the Haudenosaunee Nationals are used to excelling at, if included as participants in the Olympic Games, they should be equally as gifted in this newer Sixes style. Sixes can be broadly described as a blend of the field and box versions of the game that is played outdoors.
For Haudenosaunee Nationals players such as Kyle Jackson, who is currently on the Nationals Sixes roster, having the support of President Biden is meaningful and impactful. Like all of the Haudenosaunee Nationals, Jackson understands that President Biden’s remarks will not guarantee the team a spot in the Olympics, but hopefully, it will go a long way to helping make that happen.
“It means everything when you think of the big picture of all of this,” Jackson said. “It’s been hard enough for the Haudenosaunee at the World Games, or at any capacity, so, when you’re talking about the Olympic world stage and what transpires with that… it becomes all the more important when somebody like [President Biden] speaks on behalf of [the United States].
“It goes a long way. Although it might not seem like the largest gesture in the world, I think that for everyone in that capacity, it’s everything that we needed. It’s one step in the direction on top of multiple we need at this point.”
More than four years from the 2028 Olympic Games, much work still needs to be done to ensure the Haudenosaunee Nationals can participate.
With President Biden’s ringing endorsement for this cause being added to the growing list of international support the Haudenosaunee Nationals have already received thus far, this is one the most significant steps forward for the right decision to be made and for the Haudenosaunee Nationals to be granted permission to compete on the most prominent world stage.
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