Lacrosse’s Iroquois roots on display at world championship in Denver

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(Photo: Courtesy of Kenny Frost)
<p>Gewas Schindler, manager of the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team.</p>

Photo: Iroquois lacrosse team manager Gewas SchindlerThe world’s best lacrosse players are gathering this week in Colorado for the World Lacrosse Championship. On the fields, you'll see players from Austria, Uganda, Japan and, of course America, competing for their countries.

Yet one of the tournament’s favored teams doesn’t represent a country -- technically speaking. The team represents the Iroquois nation, whose people traditionally live in the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada.

Oren Lyons is an honorary chairman of the Iroquois team, and a lifetime lacrosse player.

"It’s our game," Lyons says. "We’re the ones that invented this particular long-stick game, and we’re the ones that presented it to the world."

He says the Iroquois have been playing lacrosse for centuries. They introduced it to Westerners when the queen of England visited Canada in the 1600s. To this day, Lyons says, lacrosse is a spiritual thing for the Iroquois.

Gewas Schindler, the team's general manager, recently retired from his playing career -- both for the Iroquois team and in the major leagues, including a stint with the Colorado Mammoth.

“You’re given a lacrosse stick before you know what it is," Schindler says of his upbringing. "You have one in your hand before you’re learning to walk."

Schindler says some members of the Onodagan nation, the Iroquois tribe he's part of, are even buried with lacrosse sticks in anticipation of playing in the afterlife.