Any time an Iroquois Vs England lacrosse game is being played, you know it’s going to be intense. The two nations obviously both want to win on the lacrosse field, but when these two get together, there is often a little more subtext at play, and it always makes for exciting games, even if they are quite lopsided.
UPDATE: Connor has received a couple of complaints, ONE big correction from Tom Roche (and a BIG thanks to Tom for that info!), and one amazing email from a young man in the UK who seemingly wants to get the ball rolling to change things in the future. It might not be perfect, but this article has started a conversation, and we have to begin somewhere. Read below for more. Updates are underlined.
Editor’s Note: the following post is an opinion piece by Connor Wilson. If you disagree with his position, please comment below, and Connor will engage with you in a meaningful discussion. He is open to different ideas, but he will need some serious convincing, so bring your A-game if you want to argue!
There is a diverse historical precedent, reaching back hundreds of years, but a lot of this added passion comes on the heels of the 2010 debacle where the Iroquois were unable to travel to Manchester, England for the FIL Field Lacrosse World Championships. Because of complicated visa issues between the Iroquois, the UK, and the United States, the Iroquois never made it to England, and never played a game. Earlier this past Summer, the U19 Iroquois women were also forced to withdraw over UK/US/Canada visa concerns.
Interestingly enough, the Iroquois first made their own passports in 1921 because Canada (then ruled by England) would not grant Natives visas to leave the country. When the Iroquois went to the Dutch to ask for inclusionary backing in the League of Nations, England pressured the Dutch to pass on the idea. All of this was done to strip native peoples of remaining rights in Canada. Of course, it should also be noted that in 1979, 300 Native Chiefs were able to visit London upon invitation, so when the will is there, England has found a way to make travel possible.
The fact that the UK won’t do it in this instance of lacrosse raises some serious issues for our sport, and how we, the lacrosse community, value our native brothers and sisters.
When the Iroquois played England in Denver during the Summer of 2014, you could see that there was still some anger and frustration at what had happened four years prior, and after a physical first quarter where the Nationals kind of just beat up on England, the Iroquois cruised to a 15-4 win. These Lax.com highlights don’t show a lot of the physical stuff, but as you can see during the anthems, many of the Iroquois played with wooden sticks in the beginning of the game, and some of the checks were crushing.
Iroquois Vs England – 2014 FIL Field
Now I do want to be clear. It was NOT the English players‘ fault that the Iroquois couldn’t make it to the UK for the 2010 games, but they as players, they very much represent England, and the Nationals made it pretty clear they were sending a message in that game, not only with the score, but also their physical style of play.
In the Iroquois Vs England game at the 2015 WILC, you could still see that fire and intensity from the Iroquois Nationals, and they put on an absolute display of tough, physical, and aggressive box lacrosse from start to finish. This time around the Iroquois won 20-6, and this was on the back of a 10-0 first quarter of play. The Iroquois won the loose ball battle 106-43, and they took 107 shots compared to England’s 42.
Iroquois Vs England – 2015 FIL Indoor
[fvplayer src=”https://youtube.com/watch?v=PC_z2TZqNBQ” splash=”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/PC_z2TZqNBQ/hqdefault.jpg” caption=”England Vs Iroquois Box Lacrosse: WILC 2015″]
(Check out the LaxAllStars YouTube Channel for more great 2015 WILC video!)
Now if you’re asking why I, a supposedly unbiased lacrosse media member, seem so biased here, it’s because I am. I was furious when the Iroquois were not allowed to travel to the UK, and I still blame the UK, Canada, and the US for that sad day in lacrosse history. Yes, I know the Iroquois didn’t have “up to date” passports, but I really don’t care. It was, and still is, a case of big countries bullying smaller countries through sport (a sport the smaller nation invented!), and it was (and is) wrong, wrong, wrong on a moral level. You can argue laws all you want, but in this case, right and wrong is quite clear.
With the threat of ANOTHER Iroquois-less World Championships (the 2018 games are back in Manchester, England), this box game meant even more, and again, although I know that English players had nothing to do with the visa issues, I still enjoyed seeing the program get absolutely stomped.
Why do I say that? Well, of the twelve visiting countries that spent time on the Onondaga Nation, eleven got their passports stamped by the Iroquois. Can you guess which one country didn’t? So it actually is a bigger issue than just these nations’ governments. It turns out, my sources were WRONG on this. I do make mistakes, and when I do, I admit to them. English players DID visit the Onondaga passport office, and DID get their passports stamped. Tom Roche provided proof in the form of two photos. Thank you Tom. I appreciate this info and you reaching out greatly.
— Tom Roche (@TomRoche51) October 15, 2015
It actually looks like the English box lacrosse team may have been the FIRST team to get their passports stamped. I would like to extend a sincere apology to the England box lacrosse players, coaches, and staff, as well as the English Lacrosse Association, for getting this so wrong. Misinformation is a terrible thing, and I apologize for spreading it.
So while there is conflict between these two national governments, it seems like the tension between the players and national programs is easing. Not a surprise that lacrosse players can come together. However, there still needs to be healing here.
but the English don’t seem the least bit interested in that. It makes my decision to take a side here pretty simple. Both the US and UK have long histories of colonialism… so when does either country decide to start making some amends to native people? Lacrosse, a sport all of these countries enjoy, seems like a reasonable place to start, especially when you consider its historical and religious importance. Perhaps we can all come together to find a workable solution.
When you tack on the English Lacrosse Association’s recent Visa issues back home with their own Lacrosse Development Officer Program, you’d think their national program, and maybe even the nation overall, would have more compassion in the visa department, and try to make things right, at least for 2018. So far, that has not happened. So even though I’m a member of the media, when the Iroquois play the English, you will know who I’m cheering for until this is made right. While the English players have done nothing wrong as individuals, this issue is bigger than their actions or views alone. By getting their passports stamped, perhaps the English have turned a corner here, and maybe we will see the Iroquois in 2018 in Manchester.
If you’re an English player, or citizen, and this has you fuming, I have an idea for you before you stomp off angrily or type up an abusive email to me. DO SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT THIS. Do not let my mistake become your mistake. Go visit your local elected official and make them aware of this situation if they aren’t already. The ELA set up a petition to fix their own visa issue, but they can’t set one up to fix the Iroquois issue within the UK? That seems pretty selfish to me. So write the ELA President and tell them to get on the right side of history. Go protest somewhere important, or put an Iroquois sticker on your helmet to show support for your community. DO SOMETHING GOOD, and don’t email me with complaints until you have. If you want to email/tweet me with verifiable corrections, as Tom Roche did, I’ll gladly take a look.
I am writing to my representatives to encourage my elected officials to honor the long-standing treaties, Iroquois passports, and Iroquois Nation here in the US, as we certainly need to do our part as well… But before you try to burn me with your side of the issue, know that you are wrong. Just as I was wrong. Wrong can judge wrong.
International lacrosse without the Iroquois is not lacrosse, so if you TRULY love lacrosse, we need to swallow our national pride for a minute and think about that. Now what can YOU do to make this situation better and help our brothers and sisters, the creators of lacrosse, overcome hundreds of years of marginalization at the hands of the UK, Canada, and the US? Complaining to me is still not the answer.