Detour: Origins on the Sport of Lacrosse.

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One of my babies. You can imagine how much this sport has changed over the years. From wood and deer-skin, to metal and rubber. The cleats used to hurt my feet, but I guess that comes with the package.

Okay, so the team didn’t meet up last night. So, I’m going to bring you on a trip back in time to when I was a boy; when lacrosse was first invented. Yes, I was but a lad when the valiant Native Americans raced for many miles to place a small, deer-skin ball into the “goal” of their opponent. Okay, in case you didn’t know this, I’m not that old, but these games really were epic. According to US Lacrosse’s website, lacrosse originated in many different tribes across America. From the East coast, to the Great Plains, many native tribes are believed to have played the game in place of war.

“As can best be determined, the distribution of lacrosse shows it to have been played throughout the eastern half of North America, mostly by tribes in the southeast, around the western Great Lakes, and in the St. Lawrence Valley area. Its presence today in Oklahoma and other states west of the Mississippi reflects tribal removals to those areas in the nineteenth century.” UsLacrosse.com, History of Lacrosse.

In stark contrast to today’s game, the native’s used distinctive, wooden-sticks in their games. These sticks were typically carved from trees and branches over the course of a long period of crafting. Back in Carthage, we lived not-too-far from the Onondaga Tribe near Syracuse. They still had men in the reservation who crafted wooden lacrosse sticks, and school-kids from all over could go on field trips and see them make the sticks. I didn’t even know about all of this until I was playing the sport in high school. Heck, I didn’t even know that the Onondaga were so close to Carthage (by Upstate NY standards).

“Lacrosse at Onondaga is considered sacred. It is a game that was given by the Creator, to be played for the Creator, and has been known to have healing power. The game in its original form is played between two groups, usually divided up between clans or young men versus old men. Since women are respected for providing life and are to protect this gift, they do not play lacrosse.” (Onondaganation.org)

Like I said before, the ball was typically made from deer-skin. According to The Lacrosse Training Bible, stones could also be used. The laces that create the pocket are collectively called a mesh, and were usually tied to the crook-end of the stick. The sport and it’s origins with the Native Americans is also illustrated in the 2012 movie Crooked Arrows. I really enjoyed this movie, especially the fact that Hollywood had a place for a lacrosse movie. In the film, a young man of native-descent is needed to go on a spiritual journey as he juggles coaching a high school lacrosse team, as well as protecting his reservation from the corporate clutches of a gambling-tycoon. Watching this, I was able to make the connection between reality and fiction. It made me think of the Thompson brothers from the Iroquois Nation’s team. In it, the young man’s father, Crooked Arrow, says some wisdom that only a man like him can instill,

“When the first game between the animals ended, the Creator was pleased. And he gave the Medicine Game to the people of the Haudenosaunee. That we may all come together as one and heal each other.” (IMDB.com).

I hold some respect for this character, I think the creators of this movie did an excellent job of pushing the idea of what has been at the heart of this sport for the Natives, who in fact, are still here, and still playing the game.

For some more cool stuff about the origins of lacrosse, click these links,

Four Onondaga Brothers Shatter Records and Perceptions

“Native American Legends: Lacrosse Rooted in Tribal Tradition”

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