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Lacrosse will be in the 2028 Olympics. Will the game’s Indigenous originators be allowed to compete?

Beanie Minerd represented the Haudenosaunee Nationals in a Super Sixes tournament in Canada at the end of August. The team won bronze.
Garret Eddy
Beanie Minerd represented the Haudenosaunee Nationals in a Super Sixes tournament in Canada at the end of August. The team won bronze.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced this week that lacrosse will be included in the 2028 Olympics.

However, despite being the originators of the game, and one of the top-ranked teams in World Lacrosse, the Haudenosaunee may not have a spot in the upcoming Olympic Games.

“It's just really important for them to understand and recognize what we bring to the Olympic Games,” said Claudia Jimerson, director of the Haudenosaunee Nationals women's program. “Who we are as people comes with the game. They're intertwined.”

Jimerson said that aspect needs to be recognized before any final decision is made on whether the Haudenosaunee will be allowed to participate as their own team.

She expected the road to the Olympics for the Indigenous team would be lined with obstacles, but she remains optimistic

“We know it's not going to get handed to us, nothing ever is. So, we just have to keep lobbying for ourselves and lobbying for our people,” Jimerson said.

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Haudenosaunee Nationals players (purple jerseys) stand with Kenyan players at the 2023 S
Garret Eddy
Haudenosaunee Nationals players (purple jerseys) stand with Kenyan players at the 2023 World Lacrosse Women's Super Sixes tournament in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Kenya is one of the newest nations to join World Lacrosse competitions.

In a statement, the IOC said that only nations with national Olympic committees (NOCs) can enter teams into the games. That would rule out the Haudenosaunee.

“This means it is up to the two NOCs concerned (USA and Canada) — in coordination with World Lacrosse and the National Federations concerned — to decide if they include athletes from Haudenosaunee in their respective teams depending on the passport they hold,” the statement said.

It’s not the first time the Haudenosaunee have been pushed out of Olympic competition.

Ahead of last year’s World Games, the teams were excluded from participating as the Haudenosaunee were not considered a sovereign nation (LINK). Ireland, whose teams were ranked lower, gave up their spot so the originators of the game could participate.

Jimerson says there’s a stipulation in the Olympic Charter that could be explored as a means of allowing the Haudenosaunee a spot in the 2028 Olympics.

“The IOC may recognise non-governmental organisations connected with sport, operating on an international level, the statutes and activities of which are in conformity with the Olympic Charter,” The Olympic Charter reads.

It will be up to the IOC Executive Board whether or not to recognize the Haudenosaunee as their own sovereign team.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.