Courtesy Clark Tallbull
Grandma Rosalie Tallbull and grandson Mauricio greet Jeremy Thompson at Denver International Airport before the World Lacrosse Championships begin on July 10, 2014

Iroquois Nationals Receive Warm Welcome to the FIL Championships, Ranked in Top Division

Valerie Taliman
7/5/14

DENVER – The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team began arriving in the Mile High City on July 3 to get acclimated and prepare for the 2014 Federal of International Lacrosse World Championship scheduled from July 10 to July 19 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Opening ceremonies begin at 5 p.m.

As the oldest and fastest-growing sport in America, this year’s lacrosse world championship is expected to attract more than 100,000 fans to watch 38 nations compete in 142 games scheduled over 10 days in nine divisions.

The Iroquois Nationals are ranked in the top Blue Division with five other nations, and will compete against England, Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States. They are the only all-Native team sanctioned to compete at the international level and participated in five previous world men's field lacrosse tournaments.

The Blue Division has six days of pool play between July 10-15, and the top four teams in the Blue Division advance to the quarterfinal round, according to the FIL. The top two seeds receive a bye into the semifinals.

The other eight divisions have three pool play games and will begin bracket play on July 14. The top team in each of the eight divisions after pool play will have the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinal round of the championship bracket.

Members of the 2010 Iroquois Nationals team

On arrival, the Nationals were warmly welcomed at the airport by local fans and youth from the Denver Indian Family Resource Center who were waving signs, shaking hands, and sharing hugs with the 27-member elite team and its management.

“We’ve waited a long time for this so we’re pretty excited,” said Clark Tallbull, a Northern Cheyenne father and shuttle volunteer whose son is a standout player at a local high school. “We go way back with the Iroquois Nationals, back to 1996 when they first worked with our youth to help promote lacrosse. They’ve mentored our kids and made us proud to be a part of lacrosse. We’re excited to welcome the team and host them in our community. We’re behind them all the way.”

The Iroquois Nationals 2014 roster is comprised of 27 standout athletes from eight Indian nations with professional and collegiate experience, and includes several who were named professional All-Stars and collegiate All-Americans.

It’s a bittersweet return to the world championship for the Iroquois Nationals, who were denied a chance to compete in the 2010 world games after the United Kingdom refused to honor the team’s Haudenosaunee passports. Although Haudenosaunee passports had been accepted for international travel for nearly three decades, England’s changing political posture kept the Nationals from competing.

Despite diplomatic efforts and a widely supported publicity campaign to overturn the decision, in the end, the Iroquois were prevented from traveling to the championships, sparking international outrage that the originators of the sport were treated unfairly.

The Haudenosaunee are the originators of the sport of lacrosse, also known as the Creator’s Game, which was widely played among the confederacy before the arrival of Europeans.

“It’s the first time we ever got beat by paperwork,” said Iroquois Nationals General Manager Gewas Schindler, an Oneida three-time All American who played on professional teams for nine years, including a stint with the Colorado Mammoth.

To add salt to the wounds, last year the FIL tried to bar the Iroquois Nationals from competing in the 2014 Blue Division based on “non-appearance” at the 2010 FIL World Championships in Manchester, England.  

The controversial decision by the FIL Board of Directors was appealed by the Nationals, and later overturned with majority support from 30 countries. The FIL is the governing body for men and women’s lacrosse worldwide. 

“We’re honored to be here and we want to thank our Native brothers and sisters from the Denver community for welcoming us so warmly,” said Iroquois Nationals Executive Director Denise Waterman. “We waited a long time to bring our team back and we’re excited to be competing again in the world championship Blue Division. Our team has been training hard and we’re prepared.”

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