dagwaaging. They are playing lacrosse in the fall.
Clutching sticks and bouncing hard rubber balls off of walls,
youth from reservation communities across Minnesota and Wisconsin
gathered at Bemidji State University and at Bug-O-Nay Ge-Shig School
at Leech Lake in early October for two days of lacrosse skills training.
While there, the 50 or so young people and family members of all
ages heard stories from a number of players and coaches about the
deep and enduring connections of native people to the Creator's
The Minnesota Ojibwe Lacrosse league, founded by Bemidji High
School basketball coach Dan Ninham, Oneida, is working with tribal
communities to return the game of lacrosse to Native homelands.
Lacrosse, played by Native peoples for thousands of years, is both
one of the oldest games in America and the fastest growing.
The Youth Lacrosse Skills Camps are free and open to all K-12
students, thanks to sponsors such as the National Indian Gaming
Association, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, BSU American Indian Resource
Center, Minnesota Ojibwe Lacrosse and Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.
"Our promotion is aggressive. We will have camps and competition
during all four seasons," Ninham said. "The priority is to get sticks
in the kids' hands and to learn the fundamental skills of catching,
scooping and passing on the move."
Ninham said he hopes to reach agreements with all seven bands
of Ojibwe in Minnesota, and already has Red Lake, White Earth and
Leech Lake officially on board. Camps are being planned for Grand
Portage, Mille Lacs, Bois Forte and Fond du Lac in the next six
months. A Minnesota Indigenous Lacrosse league is also being formed
to include the four Dakota communities, along with the seven Bands
of Ojibwe, in statewide youth lacrosse games. Bands will provide
practice opportunities within their own communities with inter-community
competition and scrimmages encouraged throughout the year.
The youth skills camps are staffed by a veritable who's who
of lacrosse coaches and players. The Bemidji and Leech Lake camps
were staffed by Gewas Schindler, general manager of the Iroquis
Nationals Lacrosse Team; Brett Bucktooth, a star player for the
Iroquois Nationals and the Vancouver Stealth of the National Lacrosse
League; and Kevin Reed, director of Community Development for Homegrown
Lacrosse and president of the Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse
Upcoming camps are planned:
- Nov. 23, White Earth and Red Lake, featuring 2011 NLL MVP
and Ojibwe Jeff Shattler of the Calgary Roughnecks and Iroquois
Nationals and Three Time National Champion Ryan Beeson of the
University of St. Thomas and Homegrown Lacrosse.
- Jan. 3-5, Mille Lacs: Lake Lena on Jan. 4 and other dates'
locations to be determined, featuring Schindler.
- Jan. 25-26, Locations TBA, featuring former Buffalo Bandit
Goalie and Iroquois Nationals player Mike Thompson.
- Feb. 22, Mille Lacs: Isle featuring Schindler.
- Feb. 22, Location TBA: Cam Bomberry, 14 year veteran of National
Lacrosse League and one of most famous Iroquois players.
- Feb. 23, Sanford Center, Bemidji: Featuring Schindler and
"We play lacrosse for many reasons," Schindler, an all-American
attackman who played for Loyola, told the youth gathered at the
Bemidji American Indian Center after the first day of camp. "We
play for the Creator's amusement. And we play to heal people. It
is a type of medicine for us."
On the second day of camp, outside the Bug-O-Nay Ge-Shig School,
the clouds parted during the afternoon and the cool temperatures
of the morning climbed into the low 60s. On a football field flanked
by multicolored trees, youth and adults shed the modern helmets,
gloves, pads and sticks they had been using for the past day and
a half. Gathered around an olive drab duffle bag on the sideline,
they each grabbed a traditional wooden Ojibwe lacrosse stick called
baaga`adowaan. At each end of the field stood a wooden post that
served as the goal for the game. As the wooden ball, a bikwaawad,
was thrown in the air, the players shouted and jostled for position.
The modern lacrosse game's older brother, baaga'adowe, had
returned to Leech Lake.
Overhead, a pair of eagles whistled and glided lower for a
better view of the Creator's Game.
Art Coulson is a veteran journalist and member of The Circle
board. His book, "The Creator's Game: A Story of Baaga'adowe/Lacrosse,"
was just published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. He
will be signing copies of the book at 1 p.m. Nov. 8 at Birchbark
Books and Gifts in Minneapolis.