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Let the games begin! Onondaga Nation hosts 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship

Tom Magnarelli
Standing on the steps of Syracuse City Hall is (from left to right) Ainsley Jemison, Mayor Stephanie Miner, Tadodaho Sidney Hill and Chief Oren Lyons holding Iroquois Nationals jerseys.

The 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship is being billed as "lacrosse comes home" because it is being hosted by the Onondaga Nation and the sport was invented by indigenous nations in upstate New York. The tournament runs from Sept. 18-27.

In 2011, the Iroquois Nationals indoor lacrosse team lost to Canada in the world championship game in the Czech Republic. But the two teams will meet again on Sunday and Ainsley Jemison, the executive director of the Iroquois Nationals said there is an added pressure on his players because they are the home team. 

“I think there is really a key cultural component that needs to be a part of this for these guys," Jemison said. "This is really about us competing against the world and re-stamping our claim in the world and taking back our game. The game we originated. We’re not only representing the Haudenosaunee people I think we’re representing all native nations.”

A new multi-million dollar indoor lacrosse venue called the Village Pavillion was built in five months on the Onondaga Nation as one of the locations where teams will play. Erick Weiss is the executive producer of the world games and said he wants to fill the seats by retelling the native story.

“For the first time in history, an indigenous people are being given the opportunity to serve as a sovereign host nation of an internationally sanctioned tournament,” Weiss said.

In 2010, the Iroquois Nationals outdoor lacrosse team’s Haudenosaunee passports were rejected by England, which was hosting the championship games, because of security concerns. The passports were partially hand written and didn’t have holograms and other security features. The Iroquois were forced to forfeit the tournament.

“The fact that they’re stamping passports, that England was the first country to go in and get their passports stamped on the Onondaga Nation is huge," Weiss said. "The Onondaga Nation is the only Native American nation that has a sovereignty treaty that dates back to George Washington.”

The championship finals will be played on Sunday, September 27th at the Carrier Dome.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.