The Creator’s Game, that is what lacrosse is called by the Iroquois and Huron peoples who began playing it around a thousand years ago. The game was played in lieu of war, for healing, and to train Iroquois youth in survival skills. Perhaps most importantly, it is played to honor the health and joy the Creator has made possible for the people. Today, according to Sports Illustrated it is the fastest growing sport in the United States at all levels of competition. Its current name, given to it by French explorers who watched the nations play, is lacrosse.
The world championships in the sport were held in Britain this week with 30 nations competing. The Iroquois team, though ranked 4th in the world, was not there to compete since the governments of the United States and Great Britain denied them travel visas. It seems that their identification and passports from the sovereign nation of the Iroquois Confederacy were not sufficient proof that they would not engage in terrorist activities. The U.S. Secretary of State’s office held the requests up for 12 days, relenting with less than 48 hours left to depart. A onetime waiver granted to a nation that is constitutionally recognized as sovereign? After the U.S. relented, the British denied the visas on their end. The Iroquois teams have been traveling to tournaments on sovereign Iroquois visas for more than 25 years.
In 2007 the United Nations passed the long awaited Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Britain voted for and the U.S. Secretary of State has issued a year-long series of forums to consider finally supporting. This resolution purported to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to their existence as sovereign entities with rights to their identity as peoples. Yet in an international sporting event, the indigenous peoples who invented the game are denied the right to participate because their identity is in question. The U.S. and Britain suggested that the players simply get U.S. or Canadian passports. In order to play the game they originated, they were asked to give up their identity as Iroquois. This was a price too large for the players. It was regarded as a simple request by the State Department. Simply deny who you are and we will let you play. That has been the message from the U.S. government since its inception, to all people of color.
In a previous blog post on this site, I discussed the skepticism in Indian Country about promises from the government which never seem to yield actual results. The Secretary of State studies indigenous rights and denies passports. The Administration promises swift settlement of Cobell and it still languishes awaiting payment at a bargain rate. Leonard Peltier was denied parole last summer. The current administration has issued many press releases promising a new era in relations with Native Americans. So far, it is business as usual: make promises, get support from Native peoples, stall on delivering promises, change the rules that govern the promises and finally ignore the promises.
And, the original players of the Creator’s Game are playing it at home in Indian Country, where it has been played for a thousand years.