Haudenosaunee Women Lacrosse Players: Making Meaning and Embodying Sovereignty
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Since the 1970s lacrosse has become the fastest growing sport in North America. It is now played by teams from six continents and over 50 nations at the international competitive level and is poised to be an Olympic sport in 2028. Also since the 1970s, Haudenosaunee communities have worked at the international level to claim lacrosse as an important part of Haudenosaunee culture and medicine. The number of Haudenosaunee women and girls playing lacrosse has burgeoned since the 1980s. Haudenosaunee girls and women articulate what is healing for them through the contemporary game, while, with the help of Haudenosaunee knowledge holders, making distinctions from the medicinal game only played by men. Because they cannot seamlessly claim lacrosse as their medicine game, as the Iroquois Nationals and other men’s teams do, Haudenosaunee women lacrosse players must articulate some of the most nuanced understandings of tradition, which places them in a position of defining how Haudenosaunee tradition functions contemporarily and into the future. This qualitative project examines the context within which Haudenosaunee women’s embodied sovereignty and meaning-making regarding their own participation in lacrosse is situated, namely, settler nation state logics that discursively and literally work to remove Haudenosaunee women from their land bases and threaten their corporeal integrity, the contested spaces of defining traditionalism and defining gender relations and sovereignty within Haudenosaunee communities, and the ways in which western feminism tends to misrepresent Haudenosaunee women. This dissertation represents the ways in which Haudenosaunee women lacrosse players are defining the traditional Haudenosaunee game of lacrosse through their participation in the contemporary game, as well as the ways in which Haudenosaunee women lacrosse players, rather than becoming more assimilated into western culture, are embodying Haudenosaunee sovereignty as they move through the contested spaces of settler nation states and travel internationally to compete.