game of Lacrosse has been a mainstay among the Haudenosaunee.
The first purpose of the game is spiritual. It is a medicine game
to be played upon request of any individual, clan, nation or the
Confederacy itself. Iroquois Lacrosse is a holistic process that
binds communities and the nations of the Haudenosaunee together.
This is the reason that we say it was a gift to our people from
tradition, new energy
that Ukiah has a lacrosse team, it may be accurate to say, "lacrosse
has returned to Ukiah" because historians have found evidence
that the sport was played by Native Americans in British Columbia
and Northern California centuries ago. We know that the sport was
played by North American Indians as early as the 15th century, on
the East Coast and upper Middle West, making lacrosse this country's
oldest indigenous sport.
Indians played the game not only for recreation, but also to settle
tribal disputes and to toughen warriors for fighting. Contests between
as many as 1,000 men lasted as long as two or three days, beginning
at sunup and ending at sundown each day. They used trees for goals
and usually placed them 500 yards to a half-mile apart. Sometimes
games ranged several miles across the countryside.
Jesuit missionaries, in the 17th century, wrote home about a game
they watched being played by the Huron Indians with sticks resembling
a symbol carried by bishops called the "crosier" (la Crosse).
sport steeped in myth
origins of lacrosse are rooted in Indian legend. Oneidas and other
Iroquois revered the game as entertainment and for physical conditioning.
But, lacrosse also held deeper religious significance. The Oneida
Story of Creation describes a Spirit World, which preceded our earth
and hangs above it. A world where its inhabitants know only happiness
some say, because they enjoyed lacrosse. Other tribes believed that
the selection of team members as well as the outcomes of games were
destined by the supernatural.
some Iroquois communities, lacrosse is prescribed through a dream
or by a fortuneteller as a curing ritual. Lacrosse is considered
a rite sacred to the Thunders, "The Seven Honored Elders"
who move across the sky from west to east cleansing the earth with
winds and rains. It is interesting to note that in modern day lacrosse,
games are not usually cancelled because of rain.
disputes between tribes were sometimes settled with a game of lacrosse,
although not always amicably. A Creek versus Choctaw game in the
1700s to determine which tribe had rights to a beaver pond, turned
into a violent battle when the Creeks were declared winners. Still,
while the majority of the games ended peaceably, many of the rituals
performed by the players were the same ones they practiced before
departing on the warpath.
game on two feet
explain the game in simple terms, lacrosse might be thought of as
a combination of soccer, hockey and basketball. It is a grueling
test of stamina that has been called the fastest game on two feet.
There are 10 positions on a team: one goalie, three attack, three
midfielders, and three defense. The object is to pass the ball downfield
using a long-handled stick with a triangular netted pocket at the
end, ultimately to score a goal, while preventing the opposing team
from scoring. Indians used a small deerskin ball; modern teams use
a hard rubber version.
is played on an open field with goals at both ends like many modern
sports. Like basketball, the offensive players set picks and run
patterned offenses and fast breaks, while the defenses are man-to-man
or zone. It can be surmised that James Naismith, a lacrosse player,
used the principles of the sport when he invented basketball.
lacrosse rivals football and soccer for popularity in high schools
and colleges on the East Coast. As rough as it is, lacrosse has
earned a reputation as a sport played by gentlemen of good character.
The rules of lacrosse assure that players uphold a high level of
sportsmanlike conduct. The sport is also gaining in popularity with
girls whose variation of the game is actually closer to the original
sport than the boys'.
famous football coach, Pop Warner substituted lacrosse for baseball
at his Indian School because, "Lacrosse is a developer of health
and strength. It is a game that spectators rave over once they understand
it," he said.
Brown, one of the greatest running backs in the history of the National
Football League, said in an interview that he would rather play
lacrosse than football. In 1956, when Brown played for Syracuse
University, he scored six goals for the North in the North-South