US Lacrosse Magazine has partnered with Blaxers Blog to produce a series of stories that illuminate the minority lacrosse experience and promote the accomplishments of those individuals who have defied stereotypes to succeed in the sport. 

"> Blaxers Blog: Indigenous Solidarity from a Black Seminole’s Perspective | USA Lacrosse Magazine

Blaxers Blog: Indigenous Solidarity from a Black Seminole’s Perspective

US Lacrosse Magazine has partnered with Blaxers Blog to produce a series of stories that illuminate the minority lacrosse experience and promote the accomplishments of those individuals who have defied stereotypes to succeed in the sport. 

Read more about Blaxers Blog and the content partnership here

Indigenous voices and representation are an integral part of lacrosse’s reformation. We are not mascots nor cultures to appropriate. We are sovereign peoples who demand respect from all agencies of authority. Members of society must accept that they are ceding on stolen lands that our ancestors cultivated for generations. The lacrosse community must honor us appropriately and support our sovereign status.  

On June 23, the lacrosse community was informed that the Iroquois Nationals were not extended an invitation to attend The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Al., despite the event being held within the United States. The IWGA is an international sport’s final transitional platform before gaining Olympic status by the International Olympic Committee.  

It was disheartening to hear of this news as one of the first Seminole Nation of Oklahoma lacrosse pioneers because we Indigenous peoples are originators of this sport. Seminole Nation of Oklahoma is a federally recognized tribe that was forced from its homeland (Florida) into Oklahoma in the early- to mid-1800s via the Trail of Tears.  

Like the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee), we southeastern nations are a united coalition called the Five Tribes. Unfortunately, like most urban natives, I grew up far away from my tribal community and culture in Prince George’s County, Md. My maternal family in Oklahoma has helped me embrace our Black Native identity, heritage and Mvskoke language reclamation as a youth.  

"Playing lacrosse was my personal way of honoring the Creator and my Seminole ancestors."

Playing lacrosse was my personal way of honoring the Creator and my Seminole ancestors. I fully understood the Haudenosaunee’s feeling of rejection and advocated for their inclusion in The World Games. As a result of their initial exclusion, the lacrosse community turned its outrage into an outpouring of unilateral solidarity for Indigenous lacrosse appreciation and inclusion.  

On July 27, Iroquois Nationals executive director Leo Nolan announced the formation of an Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Committee in order to make the changes necessary to meet requirements for Olympic inclusion. On Aug. 7, the Haudenosaunee lacrosse social media accounts announced that over 50,000 signatures were submitted to in support of inclusion at The World Games.  

On Sept. 7, Ireland Lacrosse — the final team to qualify for the World Games on the men’s side — voluntarily withdrew in order to create space for the Haudenosaunee. Then, the IWGA confirmed that the Haudenosaunee were indeed eligible to play at TWG 2022. After the Canadian and American Olympic and lacrosse governing bodies submitted letters of no objection to World Lacrosse, the Iroquois Nationals were finally added to the eight-team field. World Lacrosse confirmed that the Haudenosaunee women’s team would be eligible for TWG 2022 if it finishes within the top eight at the 2021 Women’s World Cup in Towson, Md.  

If you’re wondering why this issue became so polarizing, it’s important to understand the history of the game.

Stickball was the original form of the sport most people call lacrosse. For thousands of years, the Indigenous peoples of North America used stickball for ceremonial and diplomatic uses. The Creator’s Game has always been used as an avenue of healing our people in times of sickness, to resolve issues of war and conflict and to give thanks to the creators of the Earth.  

Each tribe uses different configurations of webbed stick and ball, but we all find comfort in our medicine game. We Seminoles and other southeastern-based tribal nations use two short sticks in our traditional version of stickball. In the 1630s, French Catholic missionaries viewed the Haudenosaunee ball game from afar in the St. Lawrence Valley.  

The Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy) is comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations, whose lands span both sides of the United States and Canadian borders. French missionary Jean De Brebeuf would coin the term lacrosse in 1636 as the French and English colonized our sport and lands for their profits.  

Indigenous figures have played the sport to demonstrate our tribal sovereignty and the right to be respected as such. The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team is the only Indigenous sports team authorized to play a sport internationally. Historically, Indigenous lacrosse figures have been minimized as props to market the Creator’s Game, but the lacrosse world has failed to make necessary actions to genuinely respect and support us. We are more than a hashtag. No more stolen sisters.  

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (via the US Department of the Interior), treaty rights are defined as “contracts among nations that are recognized and established unique sets of rights benefits and conditions for the treaty-making tribes who agreed to cede millions of acres of their homelands to the United States and accept its protection.” Historically, the Canadian and United States governments have failed to upkeep necessary resources and honor established treaties with Indigenous people.  

There have been recent attempts to strip and tarnish tribal lands, as experienced by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (land predates modern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island) and Dakota Access pipeline spill near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in both Dakotas. To us Indigenous peoples, tribal sovereignty means that we are free to govern and sustain ourselves as an independent nation does.  

Our tribal IDs and passports are supposed to be honored parallel to the United States and Canadian national identification documents. Unfortunately, when flying overseas or even gaining entry onto college campuses, Indigenous documentation and tribal sovereignty have frequently been rejected. This blatant disrespect of our sovereignty reinforces the colonist overtones that have oppressed our peoples for generations.  

In 1983, The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee sanctioned the creation of the Iroquois Nationals men’s outdoor lacrosse program, currently operated by the First Nations Lacrosse Association. The Iroquois Nationals made their exhibition debut in a pair of games against Syracuse and Hobart at the 1983 NCAA championship tournament in Baltimore.  

Before the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Haudenosaunee held a six-team invitational and spiritual gathering in Los Angeles called the Jim Thorpe Memorial Games. In 1988, World Lacrosse (formerly the International Lacrosse Foundation) granted the Haudenosaunee men’s lacrosse program official membership. The Iroquois National lacrosse team made its first official international debut at the 1990 ILF World Lacrosse Championships in Perth, Australia. The first official win in men’s senior outdoor history was a 16-2 victory over Japan in the 1994 ILF World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England.  

Unfortunately, 16 years later, the Haudenosaunee national team was denied entry into the United Kingdom in hopes of participating in the World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester.  

Haudenosaunee success has translated to two bronze-medal finishes at the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver and 2018 World Lacrosse Championships in Netanya, Israel. The Iroquois Nationals experienced a delayed arrival to Israel due to Canada’s initial rejection of their tribal passports.  

The Iroquois Nationals’ indoor team has also finished as high as second place in international competition, and the Onondaga Nation hosted the 2015 WILC. 

For generations, Haudenosaunee women and girls were restricted from playing the Creator’s Game until recent reformations created a pathway for them to proudly represent our nations. World Lacrosse granted the Haudenosaunee women’s national team membership in 2008. In 2009, the Iroquois women’s team made its official international debut at the 2009 FIL Women’s World Lacrosse Cup in Prague, Czech Republic, and earned an emphatic first international win in a 20-0 decision over Austria.  

Within the World Lacrosse structure, the highest placement for the Iroquois Nationals women’s lacrosse team was a seventh-place finish at the 2013 FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in Ontario. In 2015, the United Kingdom rejected the Haudenosaunee women’s passports in hopes of attending the 2015 FIL Women’s U19 Lacrosse World Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. It should also be noted that the 2019 Haudenosaunee senior women’s team went undefeated (4-0) in order to win the Pan-American Lacrosse Association World Cup Qualifiers in Auburndale, Fla. 

More national recognition has come to Indigenous players recently, in large part due to this summer’s Premier Lacrosse League Championship Series. 

The Premier Lacrosse League’s NBC broadcast between Redwoods LC and Atlas LC on Aug. 1 was a historic moment in sports history. Atlas LC midfielder and Onondaga member Jeremy Thompson led one of the first land acknowledgements on national sports television before the game to promote solidarity with the Haudenosaunee national lacrosse teams and Indigenous peoples of North America.  

“What a land acknowledgement means to me is to give thanks to everything here on Earth and provided for us here as humans to sustain ourselves,” Thompson said. “Things that stick out to me as a professional athlete is the tree. The reason why I say that is because it’s where the game has originated. The most important part of the game is the lacrosse stick. Where the stick derives from is the tree, the hickory tree, to be specific.”  

To conclude in the Haudenosaunee language, Thompson’s translation reads, “I am thanking our creator for my wellness today. Now our minds are one.”  

After winning the PLL championship, Whipsnakes LC attackman Zed Williams dedicated his victory speech to his late father and notably clutched his lacrosse stick and MVP trophy the entire time.  

Recent Haudenosaunee excellence translated into outstanding performances in both professional outdoor leagues. Williams dominated the Premier Lacrosse League circuit with a league-leading 20 goals on 59 shots in his inaugural PLL season. Williams’ wizardry also earned him 23 points (second-most in the league). This performance earned the Seneca Nation attackman and Virginia alum the PLL Championship Series MVP Award, as his Whipsnakes won the PLL title.  

We saw a tandem of offensive efficiency by Chaos LC teammates Austin Staats and Miles Thompson. Staats, from Onondaga Community College, shot 42 percent in seven games. Thompson, the Albany standout, shot 36 percent in seven games. Both performances helped fuel an improbable comeback season for Chaos LC, as the team went 0-4 in pool play but won every tournament game leading to a PLL championship game loss to the Whipsnakes.  

Finally, Major League Lacrosse was shown another year of Six Nations Reservation excellence from the Thompson and Staats families. 2020 MLL MVP and Chesapeake Bayhawks attackman Lyle Thompson dazzled with 3.8 points per game, 2.8 goals per game, five assists and 19 points. Thompson’s performance earned him the 2020 MLL Powell Offensive Player of the Year Award. Randy Staats, from Syracuse University and the 2020 MLL Champion Boston Cannons, produced 10 assists.  

There is no higher honor than to play the Creator’s Game on the biggest stages while making our ancestors proud. Therefore, lacrosse must continue to uplift Indigenous lacrosse figures in solidarity and help us honor tribal sovereignty.  

Without Indigenous peoples, there is no lacrosse. Without the Great Law of Peace, there is no United States Constitution. We must proceed by demonstrating to the world what ambassadors of equality look like on and off the field. We can’t change the world until we change ourselves.  

Recruiting Boom 

Blaxers Blog has made an effort since it’s foundation in 2017 to highlight minority high school recruits who are making waves on and off the field. Founders Don Wilson and Mark Paul admit that college coaches have even reached out to them inquiring about players seen on the blog. 

This week, Blaxers Blog celebrated a number of high school players making their commitments to top-tier Division I schools. On Sept. 22, the blog featured Malachi Jones (Virginia), one of three players from Nationals Lacrosse Club highlighted. 

Give Blaxers Blog a follow and peruse its Instagram Story for more college commitments. 

Xavier Arline Starts 

The lacrosse community was abuzz when news came out that highly touted lacrosse recruit turned Navy football freshman Xavier Arline got the start at quarterback for the Midshipmen. Arline, Inside Lacrosse’s No. 5 recruit in the 2020 class, originally committed to North Carolina for lacrosse in eighth grade. 

After Mack Brown took over as UNC head football coach, the offer was rescinded. He opened his recruitment back up and wanted to find a school where he could play both football and lacrosse.  

He found the right match in Annapolis. Arline rushed for 13 yards in the win over Tulane — becoming the earliest Navy freshman to start at quarterback. 

Rally the Vote 

With Major League Lacrosse participating in the Rally the Vote initiative, many of its most prominent players have taken to social media to spread the word. Blaxers Blog host Mark Ellis, in addition to the Philadelphia Barrage’s Chad Toliver, both encouraged followers to register to vote as part of the campaign. 

Blaxers Blog featured both Ellis and Toliver’s messages on their page in the past two weeks.