Andrew Lee, vice chair of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors and chair of the US Lacrosse Native American Advisory Council, shared a presentation on American Indians with the US Lacrosse staff last week.

Lee, who is half Seneca, played lacrosse collegiately at Hamilton College – and continues to play and coach the game – and has been an active advocate for American Indian advancement. He spent seven years as the executive director for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, where he created the now globally-replicated Honoring Nations tribal governance awards and co-authored a book on the contemporary status and issues confronting America’s indigenous peoples.

In addition to his volunteer roles with US Lacrosse, Lee spent nearly two dozen years in board service to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and currently serves on boards for the Harvard Project, the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center, the Tewaaraton Foundation and the Chickasaw Nation Community Development Endeavor, among others.

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, we’re sharing some of the information Lee presented to the US Lacrosse staff to help better understand the history of Native Americans and the current environment.

  • The Hiawatha Belt, represented on the purple flag many lacrosse fans have seen for the Iroquois Nationals and Haudenosaunee women at international lacrosse events, represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It depicts the five original Haudenosaunee nations that came together in a peaceful democracy in the 12th century. From left to right, it’s the keepers of the western door, the Seneca; then the Cayuga; the tree in the center represents the Onondaga, the capital of the confederacy; next is Oneida and on the far right is the Mohawk, the keeper of the eastern door. A sixth nation, the Tuscarora, joined the Confederacy in 1722.
     
  • The principle of seven generations is a core leadership philosophy of the Haudenosaunee (also known as “People of the Longhouse”), and it means that when leaders make decisions, they have a sacred responsibility to think of the wisdom of those that came seven generations before and to consider how their decision will impact those to be born seven generations ahead.
     
  • There are currently 574 tribes federally recognized by the United States and more than 300 reservations. There are 5.9 million people in the U.S. who identify as Native American or Alaska Native, which accounts for less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population. Approximately two-thirds of the Native population lives off-reservation, primarily in urban settings.
     
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives possess sovereignty, or the right to control their own affairs. Like other governments, tribal governments have their own constitutions and perform a myriad of governmental functions, such as law enforcement and the provision of social services. The total land mass controlled by American Indians and Alaska Natives is 100 million acres. The largest reservation is controlled by the Navajo Nation, which includes land in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and is roughly the size of West Virginia.
     
  • Native communities continue to face severe challenges with high rates of poverty, suicide, diabetes and school dropout. But Indian Country has been experiencing a renaissance for the past four decades, fueled by policies of self-determination, which allow Indian nations to take greater control of their own affairs. There are a growing number of tribal success stories across a broad array of areas and issues, including health care, education, environment, economic development, and cultural affairs.
     
  • The research is clear: the most successful Indian nations are those which exercise their sovereignty, and back it up with capable institutions of self-governance that match their unique cultures.
     
  • There are still roughly 1,000 native-inspired team nicknames in sports.

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