Letters to the Editor: The ‘Christian discovery’ doctrine holding back the Iroquois lacrosse team

Iroquois Nationals during a practice session in Staten Island, N.Y., in 2010
Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team members talk during a practice session in Staten Island, N.Y., in 2010.
(Ramin Talaie / Corbis/Getty Images)
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To the editor: Thank you for the very informative article about the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team’s struggle to be included in the World Games. The print edition headline — “A national team in need of a nation” — is misleading, however.

The Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy are indeed nations, with their own histories, territories and governments. In 1794, President George Washington signed a treaty with the Confederacy on behalf with the United States. The United States only signs treaties with other nations, not races or ethnic groups.

When European Christians “discovered” the Americas, they proclaimed a doctrine of Christian discovery that denied the rights to life, territory and self-government of the indigenous non-Christian nations. Chief Justice John Marshall, in his decision in Johnson vs. M’Intosh (1823), brought the doctrine of Christian discovery into U.S. Indian law as the basis of all U.S. property law.


The United States refuses to acknowledge the nationhood of the Six Nations, because doing so would call into question the whole body of unjust laws built on the doctrine of Christian discovery.

John Maddaus, Los Angeles

The writer is an associate professor emeritus of education at the University of Maine who focuses on Native American education.


To the editor: Rarely do we read such a richly bicultural piece that conveys the stories and values of another people while communicating the conundrum they find themselves in when dealing with a worldview based on conquest.

How critically important reading such a piece is if we are to outgrow the blindnesses of white privilege.

The story of how the birds’ acceptance of the mouse and the squirrel enabled them to win their lacrosse game over the larger animal team is a story about how every being has gifts to bring. Our founding idea of a confederacy of states comes from the Haudenosaunee peoples.


There is so much we have to learn frown the wisdom of others.

Alanna K. Brown, Valley Village