“[Lacrosse] is one of the rare instances in which an element of Aboriginal culture that was originally accepted and embraced by Canadian society”. The purpose of this essay is to explain how lacrosse was assimilated from First Nations society into past and present day society. The three topics that will be discussed in this essay are; the history of First Nations and their sport of lacrosse, the evolution and assimilation of the game of lacrosse, and how lacrosse became one of Canada’s national sports.
History of First Nations Sport of Lacrosse The game is said to be older than the country itself. It goes back 900 years, maybe more; what's certain is that Native Americans in the Great Lakes region invented lacrosse. First Nations played the game of “baggattaway”, derived from the Ojibiwa word for ball. The ball that was used was made out of deer skin stuffed with various other hairs and materials. The sticks that they used were made out of wood, and the netting was fabricated out of materials acquired from animals. They played the game because it is thought to be a gift from their Creator. The character of the game of lacrosse, as originally played, made it midway between a sport and a deadly combat, because of its serious results to limb and life. Not only was lacrosse used as a recreational sport, it was also used to resolve tribal disputes, and to develop young warriors for battle. Since betting on games was very common, the results of the game could elevate or take away a tribe’s economic fortune. These games and gatherings would involve anywhere from 100 to 1,000 men, playing one game with nets as far as two miles apart. These games could last for days, either until victory was declared or surrender was chosen by a tribe. One of the most famous lacrosse games was played in 1842 between the Montreal Lacrosse Club and the Caughnawaga. It was the first match between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to take place since 1763, when the Ojibwa tribe staged a lacrosse game to gain entry to Fort Michilimackinac, and once inside massacred English soldiers and captured the fort. Not only were the actual games of great honour and pride, the ceremonies that would be done weeks leading up to the game were of great importance. These ceremonies would include playing songs, tribal chanting, and most important of all; the dances. These dances were very important to the Natives who were chosen to be a part of the game. The dances done by the players would be exhorted in a way that they believe would make the body active and strong, as well as strengthen the mental toughness that was necessary. For two weeks before the day of the match, the competitors were to fast from all excesses, eat little food, and harden themselves by every possible means for the exertion of anticipation. When the game finally arrived, players from each tribe would meet at the field. Both tribes would be screaming, whether it be their battle cries or just to make noise in an attempt to intimidate their opponents. To start the game, the ball would either be placed in the middle of the field and both teams would run after it, or it would be thrown high into the air and both teams would attempt to catch it. The intensity of this game would be overcome with violence and injuries. The players would trip and throw each other, and sometimes as occasion offered, take flying leaps over the heads of stooping opponents, or dart between their extended legs. The game of lacrosse would end by either reaching a certain amount of points or if one team surrendered and declared defeat. As time has progressed, Lacrosse has evolved from a violent type of recreational warfare, into a competitive sport used solely for recreation and enjoyment. This game still requires its competitors to have a high level of athleticism and toughness, both mentally and physically.
Evolution and Assimilation of the Game
The game of lacrosse was a