Denver Outlaws long-stick midfielder Jake Piseno

Jake Piseno finding roots, connection with Haudenosaunee Nationals

By Topher Adams | Jun 28, 2024

Before every game, the Haudenosaunee Nationals gather to thank the people and nature around them that make the game and life possible. For Jake Piseno, these are the moments that he remembers from his time with the Nationals.

It’s not just a chance to play against the best players in the world. It’s not just a chance to play with former MVPs like Lyle Thompson and Zed Williams. Representing the Haudenosaunee Nationals connects Piseno to the present, to the roots of lacrosse and to his own heritage.

While he was a college player at Albany, the Nationals program took notice of Piseno. He was asked by one of the Nationals coaches if he had any native ancestry. While Piseno wasn’t sure, his father knew Piseno’s grandfather, who’s from Mexico, had Indigenous roots.

Piseno discovered they were a part of the Purépecha tribe in northern Mexico and southern California. In addition to his rediscovered heritage, rules around roster eligibility shifted during the pandemic, and Piseno was able to represent the Haudenosaunee at the U21 World Championships in Ireland.

Piseno understands the importance and significance of representing the Haudenosaunee, even if he didn’t grow up in the culture. And through his time with the Nationals, he’s been able to learn more about his own culture and the roots of the sport he loves.

“It was awesome to be a part of that team, and they were able to help me out learning about my own heritage and what the game really means to us as Indigenous people,” Piseno said.

The sport of lacrosse has deep Indigenous roots, especially with the Haudenosaunee. Since 1983, the Nationals have connected the sport to its origins and reminded the world that the Haudenosaunee still play a large role in lacrosse today.

For Piseno, representing the Nationals allows him to educate and share more about the sport's roots.

“We're trying to help people understand where the roots of the game actually came from, so that not just Indigenous people can feel that true meaning of the game, and so that everyone can feel the way that we feel about lacrosse,” Piseno said.

Piseno starred for the Nationals at the 2023 World Lacrosse Championships. He helped the Haudenosaunee to a bronze medal and earned Best Defenseman honors in the process. Playing on the highest stage was an honor, but the tournament meant so much more than the play on the field. 

Moments like the pregame circles are what make Piseno’s time with the Nationals special. These moments were powerful not only for the Nationals, but for players from other countries who would stop and witness the pregame traditions. 

“They really just speak about how powerful it is and how much they can feel that it means to us playing this game every single time we're out there with a stick in our hands,” Piseno said. 

Piseno, now the long-stick midfielder for the Denver Outlaws, never would have imagined he’d get these moments. The opportunity to represent the Haudenosaunee has been an honor of a lifetime, and something Piseno cherishes.

“I was able to play for the most special nation you could play for,” Piseno said. “Now that's a part of me.”