Oneida youth lacrosse players Jamison Quiver, Daniel Stevens, Jonas Johnson, and Micah Good Eagle joined the Iroquois Nationals for the World Series of Youth Lacrosse in July. The acts of support and solidarity they received during their journey will stay with them for a long time.
In early July 2021 four area youths joined the U-13 and U-14 Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team for the World Series of Youth Lacrosse tournament held in Gaithersburg, Md. The opportunity to compete in a championship tournament at that level is a rare and special occasion, and to come away from it experiencing new friendships, comradery, and even an unfortunate incident helped provide ample lessons for personal growth. The tournament featured top-level teams from across Turtle Island while some other teams, including the Nationals, were given special invitations.
Micah Good Eagle, Jamison Quiver, Jonas Johnson, and Daniel Stevens jumped at the opportunity to compete with the Nationals and traveled with family to the tournament just outside Washington, D.C. “It was pretty cool to see the boys walk in with their ribbon shirts on,” Johnson’s mother, Kelly, said. “Anybody that knows anything about lacrosse knows the Iroquois Nationals are a big part of the sport. The game originated with the Iroquois people so most who saw our boys walk in thought it was pretty cool.”
The Nationals got off to a bit of a rough start on the first day of tournament play, but being able to compete against top-tier teams is why the boys joined the tournament. “The teams our boys went up against had won previously and advanced to this tournament, so they’d been playing and practicing together for years,” Johnson said. “With our four boys joining the Nationals, they hadn’t played together at all.”
The Nationals weren’t necessarily trying to win a title but they were all-in for the overall experience, Johnson said. “Every boy on the team has played in other lacrosse tournaments on other teams,” Johnson said. “But the fact that they were at the World Series of Youth Lacrosse tournament is the experience they wanted to have. Most other teams in the tournament had won other tournaments to qualify for this, so our boys knew they’d be playing other top teams.”
Following tournament play all day Friday, July 2, all tournament participants and support personnel came together for a formal banquet at the sponsoring hotel with the Nationals players wearing their ribbon shirts. The player’s meals were taken care of as part of the registration process, however any parents on hand paid $60 per plate.
“There were probably close to 60 teams there along with everybody’s parents, coaches, and staff, and it was just a very chaotic scene,” Johnson said. “We walked into a room with tables everywhere and little buffets set up but no organization or instructions. While each team apparently had name cards on their tables, we walked in and our table only had 10 chairs for eighteen people. There was no real organization and there were parents standing in the hallway eating off their plates, standing outside eating off their plates, and no real room for people to sit and relax. So that was upsetting because we paid $60 per plate and it was not what we were expecting.”
What happened next isn’t completely clear, but a confrontation over table seating occurred between an opposing lacrosse mother and Nationals’ support personnel within earshot of the team. Some of the Iroquois parents and players had taken seats at a table near the stage which originally carried their team name card, but at some point the card has been switched with another team’s card. Due to the seating confusion many other parents, including Johnson, stood toward the back of the room.
As the tournament sponsor Body by Jake spokesperson began to address the audience, Johnson began receiving text messages from some of the players at the table stating there was an incident occurring. “I walked toward the table up front and saw on Iroquois parent stand up and say something to a woman in response to something she had said to another Iroquois mother,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure exactly what was said by the woman, but it was heard by the parents and players at the table and it obviously upset them.”
While what was said by the woman to the Iroquois players and parents at the table cannot be confirmed, reports do suggest belittling remarks about the team and parents were said. With this, the Iroquois Nationals team and parents walked out of the banquet hall, with Team Israel (a Jewish lacrosse team from the Los Angeles area) and Team Berserkers walking out with the Nationals in solidarity. Some of the Nationals players and parents went back to their hotel while others then mingled with the other two teams. While event organizers did tell the Iroquois parents that the situation would be addressed, it seems very little was done at the time to deal with the offending parent.
“We were told that the woman and her son wouldn’t be allowed to continue in the tournament but other parents said they were there during the closing ceremonies,” Johnson said. “So, this whole episode was pretty upsetting to our parents although the kids seemed to be much more resilient about it.”
The Iroquois Nationals team did indeed take the incident in stride and continued to compete during the tournament. While the boys didn’t take the World Series of Youth Lacrosse by storm, important lessons about teamwork and comradery were certainly taken from the tournament. During the closing ceremonies, Team Berserkers and Team Israel would yet again tangibly demonstrate their respect for the Iroquois Nationals.
“Each competing team in the tournament had team flags,” Johnson said. “Our Iroquois team had two, and Team Berserkers asked if they could carry our Hiawatha Belt flag out for us, and then Team Israel asked us if they could walk out onto the field right beside us during the closing ceremonies. So, it was very heartwarming seeing that support. When the Nationals were called to the center of the field it was great to see them cheered and supported. It was also announced that the two teams competing in the championship game would wear orange on their helmets in recognition of the Nationals. We don’t know whether the officials knew we wore orange because of the Canadian Residential School issues taking place or not, but it was nice to see.”
While many of the parents and supporters of the Iroquois Nationals were clearly upset by what had transpired during the banquet, the players themselves walked away from the tournament with their heads held high. “All of our boys had a great time,” Johnson said. “I think if you were to ask them, they wouldn’t even mention that incident as a memory. I believe their memories are going to be more of the new friendships they gained and being able to play in the World Series of Youth Lacrosse, which is exactly what this should be all about.
“And this was certainly a learning experience for myself and my son to reflect on who we are and why he plays the game,” Johnson said. “He’s not out there playing for medals and championships like many others are. He’s out there because he loves to play the game and it brings him happiness. He plays for his family and the Creator and for everything he was ever taught about the game of lacrosse, and that goes for all four of our boys that were on that team.”