The strong bond between the Choctaw people and the country of Ireland goes back to 1847, when the tribe elders and leaders gave the Irish, through the embassy here, $170….equivalent to $5000 today….to help their beleaguered, starving people.
Starvation and decimation were fresh in their memory.
This was after they were forced to leave their homes and all that they knew, and walk the trail of tears, and were forced to re-establish themselves, or perish.
The Choctaw leaders have visited Ireland thrice, and a statue memorial was dedicated to their friendship at County Cork in 2017.
The Choctaw and Irish relationship also sparked a poetry collaboration between author LeAnne Howe, Choctaw, and Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa, along with the Choctaw-Ireland Scholarship Programme, a scholarship for Choctaw students to attend the University of College Cork in Ireland.
Which brings us to the coming 2022 World Games to be held in Birmingham, Alabama.
The invites went out to the eight top countries throughout the world, but the Iroquois Nationals were not invited.
They represent the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The Haudenosaunee are actually the originators of lacrosse, what they call the “medicine game.”
And are currently the #3 team!
The organizers said it was because they were not a sovereign nation, but in fact, they are.
So a petition started… and after 50,000 signatures, they admitted their mistake.
But it was too late.
The eight-team roster was set.
Eight teams were selected to participate based on where the team finished in the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship. The Iroquois finished third and Ireland finished 12th, but the Nationals were initially deemed ineligible to compete by the International World Games Association (IWGA).The team was ruled ineligible because it does not represent a sovereign nation and do not have an Olympic Committee. But in August, the IWGA said it was willing to reverse course if a place could be found for the Iroquois team.
And then Ireland had something to say.
They withdrew from the tournament, with this intention and said in this statement.….
In the team statement, “We are storytellers, but today, we are without words as we contemplate the generosity of spirit shown by Ireland Lacrosse.
All we can say is: You are in our hearts. You are part of the spirit of lacrosse. We will never forget that.
Nyawenha, Go raibh maith agat.
Said Iroquois player Lyle Thompson, “A sense of me felt bad because they’re sort of sacrificing and giving up their opportunity. But a part of me felt like this is the right move, and I do truly believe that.
The Iroquois Nationals are going to put together the best team the world has ever seen, and representing not just the Iroquois Nationals, but Ireland lacrosse also.”
In a statement published by the New York Times, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton said his nation was gratified to learn of the gesture to the Navajo and Hopi people.
“We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine,” he said. “We hope the Irish, Navajo and Hopi peoples develop lasting friendships, as we have.”
The Irish Embassy…the grateful Irish Embassy….put it this way…
“By not taking part, Ireland Lacrosse have won something worth more than any medal — the friendship and respect of their Iroquois peers.”