A push to allow the Haudenosaunee Nationals to compete as its own team in lacrosse at the 2028 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles received a major endorsement when President Joe Biden announced Wednesday at the White House Tribal Nations Summit a push to allow the Indigenous nation that invented lacrosse to play under its own flag when the sport returns to the Olympics.
Biden’s position is a request for the International Olympic Committee to make an exception to a rule that permits teams playing only as part of an official national Olympic committee to compete in the Olympics. The Haudenosaunee have competed as their own team at a number of international events since 1990.
“We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the International Olympic Committee, LA28, and the U.S. and Canadian Olympic Committees to explore potential pathways for the Haudenosaunee to participate in the Olympics while respecting the Olympic Games framework,” World Lacrosse said in a statement Wednesday. It also released a statement from Haudenosaunee player Fawn Porter, who said the government’s support “will help build additional momentum as we continue our journey as Haudenosaunee people with a desire to bring the medicine of lacrosse to the world.”
The Haudenosaunee, formerly known as the Iroquois, is a collection of six Indigenous nations whose territory covers upstate New York and adjacent sections of Canada. The current world rankings have the Haudenosaunee men in third, behind the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s a really fun and unique circumstance to be able to honor the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in their history and legacy and the heritage of the sport,” said Sarah Hirshland, chief executive officer of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, on Thursday. “We’re really looking forward to collaborating both with the IOC and with LA28 to honor and figure out how to do that in a really important way,” adding any setting of a qualification pathway for the Haudenosaunee would not be addressed until 2025 at the earliest.
World Lacrosse worked with LA28 organizers to emphasize the Indigenous history of the sport to sell the IOC on bringing lacrosse back to the games as a medal event for the first time since 1908.
“We’re hopeful the IOC will see it our way, as well,” Tom Perez, the White House senior adviser and director of intergovernmental affairs, told The Associated Press. “If we’re successful, it won’t simply be the flag of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy that marches in the Olympics, it will be the flag of Indigenous people across the world.”
During its October Session in Mumbai, the IOC approved adding baseball/softball, flag football, cricket, lacrosse and squash to the program for LA28. After approving the LA28 program, the IOC reiterated its stance about teams having to compete under the flag of an established Olympic committee and suggested the U.S. and Canadian Olympic committees would have to find a way to include Indigenous athletes on their respective national teams.