November 10, 2012
Lucas Kins 275
From a Tribe to an Army: The Development of the Popularity of Lacrosse Many centuries ago the game of lacrosse was being played by our nations Native Americans and as the sport has evolved, the popularity has taken a sudden spike. There have been some major changes to the game as lacrosse has strayed so far from the roots, you would not be able to compare it to the sport of the natives. Lacrosse began as the sport of the Native American tribes and is now a sport which is populated by a large group of wealthy elite society. This paper will discuss how the sport has changed and what factors have led to the modern game of lacrosse since the sport was invented as a method of training warriors for battle. The first recorded mention of the sport was in 1610 when a missionary who was trying to convert the Native Americans to Christianity fell in love with the game. Much of the traditional game had to do with the rituals of the Natives because the game was one of the largest elements of Native American culture and religion. The traditional game as described by Mike Keegan (2005, p. 31) in great detail in the book Lacrosse: North America’s Game, in which he reflects on a journal entry of the missionary. He begins the article with a Native American myth about the creation of a bat. Many of the myths of the tribes dealt with lacrosse which proves how important the sport was to their religion. In this myth there was a lacrosse game between the mammals and the birds. A small rodent wanted to play with the mammals but they laughed at him because of his size so the rodent went to climb the trees to play with the birds. The eagles fashioned the rodent some wings and when the game began the rodent got the ball immediately and scored winning the game for the birds. This is how the bat came to be. This myth along with various others about the strength of past warriors have to do with the sport and Native American Culture. Keegan continues after this to summarize the rest of the missionary’s entry and he looks at all of the different rituals before the game as well. Before the game begins there is a dance between the two teams as members of the tribes place “bets” on the game by placing their belongings in a large pile. Some of the members of the tribe place turtle shells behind the goal as the players scrape their skin with rattlesnake teeth. The players did many things but one of the most important was to rub the ashes of a lightning stricken tree on themselves to give them power. Once the game begins there is a constant stampede of feet shuffling to try and get the ball and the missionary describes it as an ongoing wresting match between the teams trying to get the ball advantage until one man finally gets the ball, runs down to shoot at a post until he hits it and the team scores. (Keegan 2005) Lacrosse games could have lasted anywhere from a few hours to over three days. Unlike the technologically advanced lacrosse sticks and protective equipment today, the natives used wooden sticks which were carved as a long cane shaped pieces of wood with a pocket woven between. The ball was either wooden or it could be the stuffed rawhide of an animal. Some tribes used the traditional sticks, while others used two small sticks and held the ball in between the two. There were also all types of terrain on which the game was played. The fields could have been an entire square mile and the goals could either be a single post which you had to hit with the ball. They also had two separate posts which you had to score between. The number of players between the two teams was never set just as long as both teams had the same amount of players (Eddington, 2000). The parts of the game described are completely different from the organized sport that lacrosse is today. The name lacrosse was not actually coined until a French missionary named Jean de Brebeuf referred to the sport as “lacrosse”.