Lacrosse

Lacrosse is one of many varieties of stickball games being played by American

Indians when Europeans began coming to America. Almost totally a male team
sport, it is different from the others, like field hockey or roller hockey, by
the use of a netted racquet with which to pick the ball off the ground, catch
and ‘throw’ it into or past a goal to score a point. The rules of lacrosse
are simply that the ball, with few exceptions, can not be touched with the
hands. Early info on lacrosse, from missionaries like French Jesuits in Huron
country, is vague and often different from source to source. Their information
is mostly about team size, equipment used, and the length of games and length of
playing fields but say very little about stick handling, game strategy, or the
rules of play. The oldest sticks are from the first quarter of the nineteenth
century, and the first detailed reports on Indian lacrosse are even later.

George Beers provided good information on Mohawk playing techniques in his

Lacrosse (1869), while James Mooney in the American Anthropologist (1890)
described in detail the "Eastern Cherokee Ball-Play," including its
legend, rituals, and the rules and preparation for play. Given the little amount
of info and vagueness of early instructions, we will probably never be able to
reconstruct the history of the sport (darn J). Connecting it to the rubber-ball
games of Meso-America or to an even older game using a single post covered by
some animal hide and played together by men and women is likely, but not 100%
positive. As can best be determined, the spread 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
shows tribal rituals to those areas in the nineteenth century. Although stories
exist of some form of lacrosse between northern California and British Columbia
tribes, the late date brings the questions of any true link to the early sport.

From the equipment, the type of goal used and the stick handling techniques, it
is possible to figure three basic forms of lacrosse: the southeastern, Great

Lakes, and Iroquoian. Among southeastern tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw,

Creek, Seminole, Yuchi and others (to many to type out)), a double-stick version
of the game is still practiced. A two-and-a-half-foot stick is held in each
hand, and the soft, small deerskin ball is caught and held in between them.

Great Lakes players (Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Miami, Winnebago,

Santee Dakota (again to many)) used a single three-foot stick. On the end is a
round, closed pocket about three to four inches in diameter, not much larger
than the ball, which was usually made of wood, charred and cut into shape. The
northeastern stick, found in Iroquoian and New England tribes, is the progenitor
of all present-day sticks, both in box as well as field lacrosse. The longest of
any of them (usually more than three feet!) it was know by its shaft ending in a
sort of bend and a large, flat triangular surface of webbing extending as much
as two-thirds the length of the stick. Where strings meet the shaft, it forms
the pocket of the stick. (Note: This is kinda odd because this stick required
less skill then the other but yet the people who played with this stick could
often beat the other teams) Lacrosse was given its name by early French settlers
and explorers, using the generic term for any game played with a curved stick (crosse)
and a ball. Native language, however, describe more the technique (Onondaga

DEHUNTSHIGWA\'ES, "men hit a rounded object" *grunt*) or, especially in
the southeast, to show the game\'s aspects of war strategy ("little brother
of war"). There is no evidence of non-Indians taking up the game until the
mid-nineteenth century, when English-speaking Montrealers adopted the Mohawk
game they were familiar with from Caughnawauga and Akwesasne (tribes), attempted
to "civilize" the sport with a new set of rules and organize into
amateur clubs. Once the game quickly grew in popularity in Canada, it began to
be exported throughout the Commonwealth, as non-native teams traveled to Europe
for exhibition matches against Iroquois players. Because Indians had to charge
money in order to travel, they were excluded as "professionals" from
international competition for more than a century L. Only with the creation of
the Iroquois Nationals in the 1980s did they successfully break this barrier and
become eligible