The Iroquois’ ‘Little War’ for Independence Lacrosse is a microcosm of the Iroquois Nation’s fight for sovereignty

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laduke_iroquois_nationals_lacrosse_championship_850_593BY WINONA LADUKE

Oren Lyons has never given up faith in the Creator, his people or the game. The 84-year-old, an Onondaga statesman, is a 47-year member of the Iroquois Council of Chiefs. He is also a (still active) lacrosse player of world renown. I met him in July at the World Lacrosse Championships in Denver with the Iroquois Nationals team, a team he founded in 1983.

My friends were puzzled as to why I drove, with two 14-year-old boys, the 1,200 miles from the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota to attend the games. But for me and other Native people, lacrosse is not only a game. It is an epic journey through centuries.

According to my people, the Ojibwe, the first game of lacrosse was played between the mammals and the birds. The bat, that creature which spans two worlds, won that game for the mammals. So today, birds fly south in the winter while the mammals stay put. Later, the Creator gifted the sport to the two-legged. Since then, it has been “the Creator’s game.”

“Lacrosse was traditionally used as a means of healing between parties when hurtful conflicts were imminent,” says Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “History tells of a Yankton Chief, Waanatan, who oversaw a game that lasted several days, eventually leading to the settling of a conflict between camps. Many of our communities plagued by violence would benefit from this ancient way of resolving conflicts and pursuing healing.”

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