For some reason, the World Lacrosse Championship is being held in Manchester, England this year. Thirty nations will compete for the right to be the best, including the United States, Canada, Japan and lacrosse hotbed Latvia. The tournament is significant as it allows the Iroquois Nation, consisting of the six nations that make up the Haudenosaunee people, to compete as their own participant.
And they're pretty good too, finishing fourth in 2006. They should be good...they invented the game.
The World Championship has been held all over the world and the Iroquois have traveled to play in it every time without issue. Along with other tournaments, they've traveled to Australia and Japan, amongst other places. Never with any kind of incident.
That changed this week as the team tried to board a plane for England and were told by British authorities that their Haudenosaunee passports would not be accepted. Their concern was whether or not the United States would accept them upon return and in a turn of events from all known incidents in the past, America said no.
And so, the Iroquois team sat and waited in New York City as attempts to remedy the situation began. For the US and England, it was a matter of legalities. The passports were not "up to par" with current standards.
For the Iroquois, a matter of pride. They are of the Iroquois Nation, not the United States. An issue that can be debated til the end of time. Unfortunately, the team only had two days if they wanted to make it to Manchester for their first game, incidentally against the English team.
Semi-good news came down Wednesday morning when, thanks to Hilary Clinton's State department, the U.S. issued temporary, one-time allowances for American-born players. This still meant Canadian-born players on the team would not be allowed to travel without similar action from the Canadian government. Half the team was apart of this Canadian group. And the Brits still needed to sign off on their end that the make-good would suffice.
It would not, it seems. And now the Iroquois are back to square one. Their game, the first game of the World Lacrosse Championships, is set for Thursday night. Considering the time-change, they're pretty much already too late.
It is a shame that the Iroquois Nation, the one that can lay claim to inventing the very game that will be played, will not be present over technicalities. Don't think this group of young men are a courtesy representation, their roster consists of some of college lacrosse's finest players. They're not just a worthy addition, they're a contender for the title. Least they would have been.
The real shame, of course, is the larger issue here. For the Haudenosaunee, it's further validation of what they already know. The U.S., Canada and England consider their way of life a courtesy bestowed on them, not something to be taken seriously. For the Haudenosaunee, having their own passports was one small way to maintain their identity. And now it's one more thing we've taken away from them.
Some will say that it's their own fault. "This is America, dammit. Speak American!" Buried deep within the rhetoric, there may be a point about Native Americans adapting some practices as not to force these kinds of issues in the future. Then again, the people who will say this have also never had to grow up on a reservation or live the lives these athletes have.
Presumably the team will return home now. The players will disperse to Upstate New York and Canada. They'll probably keep an eye on the tournament. They'll watch the sport of lacrosse played by Poland, Argentina, Slovakia and Norway. They'll see England get credited with a dubious, forfeit win over the Iroquois. And in glum, ironic fashion, it will most likely be the United States and Canada that battle it out for the World Championship.
29 Nations will play for the right to be called the best lacrosse nation in the world. Just not the one who would appreciate it the most.