World Lax: Haudenosaunee women deserve their spot in lacrosse

Members of the Haudenosaunee lead the Women’s U19 Worlds teams around Justin Chiu Stadium during the opening ceremonies at Trent University.

Last night’s opening ceremonies of the 2019 World Lacrosse U19 Women’s Lacrosse Championships honoured the origins of the sport within Indigenous nations as Canada hosts this tournament for the second time.

The event officially opened on Tuesday, July 31 at 6 p.m. at Justin Chiu Stadium at Trent University with the first games taking place the morning of August 1st. Over the next 10 days, 22 nations – including the Haudenosaunee, representing six Iroquois communities – will compete in games at Trent and at Fleming College. Visit for the full schedule.

During the opening ceremonies, the Haudenosaunee team led the parade of nations. Drummers and dancers from Curve Lake performed and Curve Lake Chief Emily Whetung welcomed everyone to the games. Members of World Lacrosse and the Canadian team participate in a smudging ceremony and the players, coaches and referees took oaths to do their best to honour the game.

Lacrosse was first played by Indigenous people centuries ago. There are different stories among different communities about how lacrosse came to be – and I encourage everyone to seek out those stories – but what is universal is the reason for the game. It is a medicine game, played to settle disputes or heal the body and mind, and is always to be played for the enjoyment of the Creator. Lacrosse heals me even from the press box, and I try to keep this in mind whenever I write about lacrosse.

But lacrosse was never intended to be a women’s game and some still believe women shouldn’t play. Despite the matrilineal nature of the Haudenosaunee, lacrosse was intended for the men of the community. The CBC Radio program Tapestry detailed in 2018 that women were not even allowed to touch lacrosse sticks, for fear that they would take the power from the stick and render it useless.

Women’s lacrosse began in 1890 in Scotland and a governing body was formed in 1972, but the Haudenosaunee did not become members of World Lacrosse until 2008 and did not compete in the Women’s Worlds until 2007 (at the U19 level). Their team was disbanded in 1999 after opposition from clan mothers forced a hiatus.

But Haudenosaunee women have stood their ground and built a program they are proud of, thought it hasn’t been without resistance from both internal and external sources.

In 2015, they were forced to withdraw from the U19 women’s worlds in Edinburgh when the United Kingdom refused to recognize their passports. The women on that team deserved to be there to see their hard work pay off.

From box to field or from men to women, Peterborough is a lacrosse town. We are proud to welcome the Haudenosaunee women back to the U19s this summer from Aug. 1 to 10. As a lacrosse community, we know that without the Haudenosaunee, there would be no lacrosse at all. We owe them our gratitude for the sport we love, and we will be cheering for them on the field.


Further reading:

Netflix: Keepers of the Game