In 2011, Jeff Shattler was one of the hottest names in box lacrosse. He was named NLL MVP that year after scoring 29 goals and dishing 46 assists for the Calgary Roughnecks, the top regular season finishers in the league. It was the player’s sixth season in the NLL, and it was the one that elevated him to superstar status.
His play caught the attention of Team Canada, which was set to compete at the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship that May in Prague. Canada invited Shattler, originally from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in northern Ontario, to join its team for the coming tournament.
“I was really into going to Prague for the Worlds in box,” Shattler said.
But Canada wasn’t the only party interested. Duane “Dewey” Jacobs, the head coach of the Iroquois Nationals, called Shattler shortly before he planned to commit to Canada and asked if he had a status card, because the coach would like him on his team.
Choosing between Canada and the Iroquois Nationals left Shattler with a lot to process. He took the news to his grandmother, an Ojibwe.
“I told my grandmother, and she goes, ‘Isn’t there a Team Iroquois?’” Shattler remembered. “I said, ‘Yes, I believe there is, grandma.’ And she goes, ‘You’re playing for Team Iroquois.’”
Shattler didn’t immediately go with her demand. He reflected himself on how he felt and realized that he agreed with her.
“I’m proud to be of aboriginal descent, and that’s where I belong,” he said. “I switched from Canada to Iroquois, and I’m glad I did.”
Shattler isn’t Haudenosaunee, though, with Ojibwe roots on his mother’s side and an Inuit father. World Lacrosse only allows the Iroquois Nationals three non-Haudenosaunee passport-carrying players from other indigenous communities, and players must verify their citizenship enrollment with proper documentations from his respective nation. It makes acceptance that much more special for Shattler, and donning the Iroquois Nationals colors means everything for the player, he said.
“I’m very proud to be accepted and to be part of something as powerful as it,” he explained. “It’s an honor to play with the best Native players out there. There are some great lacrosse players I get to learn from, like Lyle Thompson and Cody Jamieson. These guys, they’re great lacrosse players, and to be considered with them, I consider it a high honor.”
He played for the Iroquois Nationals at the 2011 WILC and 2015 WILC on the Onondaga Nation, winning silver medals in both events. Shattler was supposed to compete again with the team at the 2019 WILC in Langley, British Columbia, but the birth of his third child, Jax, came one week before the start of the tournament, and in one of the few times ever in Shattler’s life, something came before lacrosse.
“I didn’t find it very fair to bring my wife and my newborn down to the games, so I had to bow out,” Shattler said.
It remains to be seen if 2023 will be in the cards for Shattler, but representing the Iroquois Nationals on the world stage twice is already two times enough for him to feel humbled.
“We are a very, very proud people,” he said. “I believe when we step on the floor, all the fans, they love the way we play: the grit, the passion, the stick skills. We’ve been playing this game for hundreds of years. It’s an honor to put on a show for people who have never seen the game before. It’s a privilege to put on the jersey, and it’s an honor to represent it.
“My whole life, I just wanted to be one of the best lacrosse or hockey players, whichever it may be,” he continued. “I had the opportunity to excel at lacrosse. I know the World Championships might behind me now, but I’m gonna ride this wave until I can’t anymore.”