⚓ Lacrosse Rooted in Tribal Tradition

Men from the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake (Caughnawaga) who were the Canadian lacrosse champions in 1869. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

By Grady Winston, Legends of America

It may not have the popularity of football, baseball or basketball, but the spirit of lacrosse is alive and well on fields and college campuses across the United States. The sport is even more popular with our neighbors to the north, where lacrosse serves as a dual national sport of Canada, alongside the spotlight-stealing sport of ice hockey. One thing that sets this sport apart from many others is its origins in Native American culture and is one of the oldest team sports originating in North America.


Lacrosse, considered to be America's first sport, was born of the North American Indian, christened by the French, and adapted and raised by the Canadians. (Photo Credit: Ashland Youth Lacrosse)

Lacrosse traces its origins to North American Indian tribes. Outside the United States and Canada, lacrosse is relatively unknown, although it will be featured at the 2017 World Games, in Poland for the first time. Lacrosse enthusiasts hope that means the sport may be one step closer to making it into the Olympic Games.

The full-contact, fast-moving sport of lacrosse was ideal for training young Native Americans in the art of battle, but lacrosse competitions also took the place of battle. When disputes arose over land or resources, tribes would agree to a contest instead of rushing into war. These contests would be scheduled at agreeable times for both tribes and would end the dispute with less bloodshed, though broken bones and severe injuries were not uncommon, and death was not unheard of in the contests.

Lacrosse may have served as a more sensible replacement for war, but it wasn’t solely a dispute-settler. The sport was also used by tribes to cultivate social relationships. Each tribe had different mythology regarding the origins of the game, and the ball was representative of the sun and the moon, which according to legend, the gods tossed back and forth in the original game.

The Basics

Modern day players in competition. 

Lacrosse as originally played by Native Americans wasn’t the same as lacrosse played by collegiate athletes today. There would have been no specialized tasks on the field, but an open field on which a player could move freely after the ball. This resulted not only in greater camaraderie on the field but on-field fights as well. The area could range from anywhere between several hundred yards to several miles, and goals could be anything from a boulder, a tree, or simply a designated area on the ground.

  • Sticks with netting, much like today’s rackets. However, preparing for the game was very similar to preparing for war. Players would adorn war paint and decorate their sticks with paint and feathers.
  • Small leather-hide balls, stuffed with animal hair. Some early versions of the ball were made from wood, while others were made of stuffed deer hide or even solid rubber
  • Boundaries, though much broader than today’s lines. Playing fields could go on for miles, and typically the game time lasted from sun up until sundown.
  • Each team was required to place wagers on the game, which included valued items, food or tools. The winner of the game would receive the prizes, which were on display during the game to spurn players on.
  • At the end of each game, there was a ceremonial feast for each tribe and their players, the original form of sportsmanship.

Children from various tribes participate in a traditional lacrosse tournament in the Black River Falls region of Minnesota. (Photo Credit: Lacrosse Allstars)

The object of the game was basically the same: to get the ball through the other team’s goal in order to score points, using body checks and stick checks as needed to steal the ball from the other team. However, in the Native American tradition, passing the ball from one player to another was seen as a trick, and dodging an opponent or their stick checks was seen as cowardly.

Honoring Heritage

Junior lacrosse players celebrating the Creator's Game. (Photo Credit: Lacrosse Allstars)

Many tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada have played lacrosse, including the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, the Cherokee and the Creek. Consider teaching your kids a sport that will also give them a lesson in culture – whether it’s a lesson from their own ancestry or a cross-cultural lesson about the country in which they live. Native tribes that used sport – rather than warfare – to settle disputes exhibited an enlightened approach to problem-solving that society could definitely benefit from today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Grady Winston is an avid internet entrepreneur and copywriter from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

To view artist A. Aubrey Bodine's photography on the subject and other creative works: www.aaubreybodine.com

To see the original article, visit Legends of America who explores history, destinations, people & legends of this great country since 2003.

Three New Films Expose Native Music History

By Brian Wright-McLeod

News From Indian Country

Perhaps the first in depth overview of Native presence in and influence on popular music in America that influenced the world, is finely detailed through story, song and image. Full of archival photos and footage, interviews with family members, associates, and writers on Native music, Rumble manages to reveal this little known history.

Featured artists include Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Jimi Hendrix, Pura Fe, Stevie Salas (the film’s executive producer), Redbone, Charley Patton, Monk Beaudreax (the Wild Tchoupitoulas), Taboo (Black Eyed Peas), John Trudell, Randy Castillo (Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue), author John Troutman and others.

One glaring omission was the exclusion of the author of The Encyclopedia of Native Music – the book that was the basis for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian exhibit “Up Where We Belong,” from where the film was derived.

The focus is purely American and belabors Black roots in popular music to the point of exhaustion thus deviating from other cultures that were just as important. For example, the Metis people of Western Canada, who extend predominantly from Cree and French/Scottish roots, and developed their own distinct language with a specific cultural, geographical, and musical heritage.

Elliot Easton, Nishi Boy Salas, Christina Fon, Wayne Kramer, and Scott Goldman at the special screening of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, at the Grammy Museum. Check out Rumble's Facebook Page.

An award-winner at the Sundance Film Festival Story Tellers Award in 2017, Rumble went on to win the TIFF/Rogers Award for Best Canadian Documentary and Hot Docs Audience Award (Toronto, Canada).

Rumble provides an important overview of a music history that is only just beginning to be understood and told. The doc has since been released to Netflix and other platforms with a forthcoming DVD version to be released later this year.

There is no official soundtrack available, and due to clearance issues, it is doubtful that there will be one. Yet, the three-CD project The Soundtrack of a People (produced by Brian Wright-McLeod with EMI Music Canada) includes the majority of artists featured in the film.

When They Awake [independent]

Produced and directed by Pedro Marcellino and Hermon Farahi, When They Awake celebrates a cross-country overview of current Native music in Canada.

Following a year of filming a variety of artists from traditional drummers of Iqaluit to the club scenes of Vancouver, British Columbia and Toronto, Ontario, the filmmakers have amassed a sweeping documentation of an incredible movement.

Filmmaker Pedro Marcellino (center) during the 2017 Arctic Tour  

Featuring Tanya Tagak (Inuit), A Tribe Called Red, Susan Aglukark (Inuit), Iskwe (Cree), Leela Gilday (Dene), Derek Miller (Mohawk), and Logan Staats (Mohawk), the documentary also profiles more than 20 other artists.

Although Eastern Canada is absent, the omission was not intentional. “The original idea was to focus on the Inuit and other northern people,” Marcellino said. “We had no idea the film would grow to this magnitude. There is much more to come, and we hope to include the East too.”

Utilizing DAPL/Standing Rock, Idle No More and the effects 100 years of residential school system in Canada (1896 to 1996), this backdrop adds a texture to the music and its message. The film’s title is taken from a quote by historic Metis figure Louis Riel.

“As non-indigenous filmmakers, we hope to build bridges between communities, and to provoke thought, discussion, dialogue, and above all, long overdue recognition to the music and culture of Native people,” Marcellino said.

The film premiered at various 2017 film festivals including Las Vegas, Nevada; Montreal, Quebec; and Calgary, Alberta.

“It’s one of the best music docs I’ve ever seen and I’m extremely proud we presented it as our opening film,” said Calgary’s film festival executive director Steve Schroeder.

On The Net:

The Road Forward
[National Film Board of Canada]

Filmmaker Marie Clements’ The Road Forward is a musical that features piano bluesman Murray Porter (Mohawk), songwriter Russell Wallace (Stl’atl’imx), vocalists Cheri Maracle (Mohawk), Jennifer Kreisberg (Tuscarora), and others. Through song and performance, the film spins a tale of indigenous perspectives on history and current events.

On The Net:

Woman Becomes First Alaska Native to Head Indian Affairs

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ The U.S. Senate has named an Anchorage and Utqiagvik native as the assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs.

President Donald Trump nominated Tara MacLean Sweeney for the role last year.

She is an executive at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and a past co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

The U.S. Senate selected Sweeney in a unanimous vote and confirmed her Thursday.

She is the first Alaska Native to serve as assistant Interior secretary.

Sweeney is one of five assistant secretaries in the Interior Department, reporting to Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

She will oversee the bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.

(Editor’s Note: Below is NAT’s initial post after Ms. Sweeney's 2017 nomination)

Trump Nominates Sweeney for Top Dept. of Interior Post

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke applauded President Donald J. Trump's nomination of Tara Mac Lean Sweeney, the prominent Alaska Native leader and acclaimed businesswoman with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, to be the department’s next Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sweeney, a member of the Native Village of Barrow and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, would be the first Native Alaskan and only the second woman in history to hold the position.

The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs oversees Interior’s manifold responsibilities to enhance the quality of life, promote economic opportunity and provide quality educational opportunities for American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives, while protecting and improving their trust assets.

“Tara is a results-driven team leader and coalition builder who has an impressive combination of business acumen and service to her community,” Secretary Zinke said. “Her lifelong active engagement in Native American policy development and her outreach, advocacy, and organization skills are the combination we need to carry out the President’s reform initiative for Indian Country. I look forward to welcoming her to our leadership team."

“I am honored to be nominated to serve Indian Country in this capacity,” Tara Sweeney said. “My goal is to develop strong relationships with Tribes, Alaska Native corporations and Native Hawaiian Organizations to work on innovative solutions for lifting up our communities. I am motivated to work with Indian Country to find efficiencies inside the Bureau of Indian Affairs, improve service delivery and culturally relevant curriculum in the Bureau of Indian Education, and create a more effective voice for Tribes throughout the Federal Government. I am humbled by the confidence President Trump and Secretary Zinke have shown in me and ready to serve.”

“Secretary Zinke’s nomination of Tara Sweeny for Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs taps a strong advocate for Native American self-determination and tribal self-government for this key leadership position,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs John Tahsuda. “Her extensive organizational knowledge and collaborative management experience will well serve Indian Country by reforming federal policies, empowering tribal communities, and removing barriers to their economic advancement.”

Sweeney grew up in rural Alaska and has spent a lifetime actively engaged in state and national policy arenas focused on advocating for responsible Indian energy policy, rural broadband connectivity, Arctic growth and Native American self-determination. She has served her Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and its subsidiaries in a variety of capacities for nearly two decades. The $2.6 billion corporation is the largest locally-owned and operated business in Alaska, with about 13,000 Iñupiat Eskimo members and 12,000 employees worldwide. It is diversified in six major business sectors, including energy support services, industrial services, construction, petroleum refining and marketing, government services, and resource development.

 In her current role as the Executive Vice President of External Affairs, she is responsible for all facets of government affairs and corporate communications. Her primary responsibilities include strategic policy and position development, implementation and execution; engagement with federal and state executive and legislative branches on improving policies affecting Indian energy, taxation, resource development, government contracting, broadband development and access to capital; as well as all facets of corporate communication as official company spokesperson, including stakeholder engagement and coalition building.

Sweeney also has served in leadership positions on numerous business and nonprofit boards at both the state and national level, including chair of the Arctic Economic Council from 2015 to 2017; co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives (2013); Coast Guard Foundation Board of Trustees; the University of Alaska Foundation Board of Trustees; FCC Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in a Digital Age; Analytical Services, Inc.; Kohanic Broadcast Corporation (parent to the first Native American owned, publicly supported FM radio station); Cherokee Nation New Market Tax Credit Advisory Board (CNB Economic Development Company, LLC, beneficiary); Breast Cancer Focus, Inc.; and Arctic Power.

“I extend my congratulations and full support to Tara on her nomination to serve as Assistant Secretary,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said. “Tara has a very strong record of professionalism and accomplishment in Alaska, across the country, and internationally, especially with the indigenous people of the circumpolar north. She has significant experience on Arctic issues and chaired the Arctic Economic Council. She is an expert on energy, infrastructure, broadband, economic development, Native self-determination, and a wide range of policy issues that will come before her. Secretary Zinke could not have chosen a better leader to help him fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibility, and I know Tara has the heart and drive to excel in this position.” “This is a historic appointment for Alaskans and for the country,” Senator Dan Sullivan said. “I’ve worked with Tara Sweeney for years and I have witnessed first-hand her integrity, her strong leadership skills and her devotion to public service. Tara has a deep love for our state and people, and is relentless in her commitment to securing a better future for Alaska and the nation. With her long history of advocating for Alaska Native cultural values, rights, and economic opportunity, I can’t think of anyone better to have as our nation’s next Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski relayed, “I extend my congratulations and full support to Tara on her nomination to serve as Assistant Secretary… I know Tara has the heart and drive to excel in this position.”

“This is an absolutely outstanding choice,” said Congressman Don Young. “Tara’s knowledge, experience and leadership will go a long way in straightening out the BIA, allowing it to run more efficiently for the good of all First Americans. She has extensive experience not only in business, but also within Alaska Native groups and organizations. Tara knows first-hand the fight for Native empowerment and self-determination because she’s been on the front lines for years. There’s long been a problem with Native issues not receiving the priority they deserve but with Tara Sweeney at the helm, I have no doubt the Department of Interior will be paying close attention and the voices of our Native communities will be heard. Tara follows in great Alaskan footsteps, those of my dear friend Morris Thompson, and will do a fantastic job working on behalf of American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country.”

 “Tara’s selection for this position is cause for celebration in Alaska. In each of my conversations with Secretary Zinke, I have encouraged him to include Alaskans for significant roles in his department,” said Governor Walker. “Tara’s leadership in seeking self-determination and economic development for the people of the Arctic has been exemplary. As an Inupiaq tribal and corporate leader, she has sought the necessary balance between economic development and sustaining the ways of life and cultures of Alaska’s First People. While many will be sad to see her leave ASRC, Tara’s expertise will serve our state and nation well in this new role.”

"I commend the Secretary for his choice of Tara Sweeney for the Position of Assistant Secretary," said Jackie Johnson Pata with the National Congress of American Indians. "Tara's diverse experience in the areas of energy, natural resources, and tribal governance will be a welcome addition to the Department of Interior and NCAI looks forward to working with Tara in her new capacity."

“Since March when he was sworn in, Secretary Zinke has been assembling a top-notch team of professionals to help him lead the Interior Department,” said John Berrey, Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma. “With Tara Sweeney’s nomination, the Secretary is showing he means business when it comes to reforming the BIA and improving the delivery of services to Indian people. Tara’s long and dedicated service to the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and, most recently, the Arctic Economic Council, will be what is needed in the BIA’s top official. I thank the secretary for this nomination and pledge to help Tara achieve success for Native people any way I can.”

“Ms. Sweeney’s background consists of the right elements to assist our economic development efforts with the tribes we serve in Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota towards economic sustainability,” said Leonard Smith, Executive Director of the Native American Development Corporation. “Her experience in energy, capital, government contracting and economic development give her the depth of knowledge to develop legislative solutions to federal policies that hinder economic development with tribal nations. We feel confident she will be able to promote stronger federal support through collaboration with other federal, state and private resources for implementation of the infrastructure necessary for economic growth and sustainability.”

“In these critical times, Ms. Tara Sweeney will serve as a strong Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs,” said Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “Her experience with empowering Native Americans is unparalleled and she will help all tribes achieve great selfdetermination. There is not a Tribe or Alaska Native corporation that she would not help. I have had the opportunity to work alongside Ms. Sweeney for over a decade, I’ve seen her in action and she is driven by results.” "Ms Sweeney is an incredibly qualified nominee," said Robin Puanani Danner, the Policy Chair for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. "Her business experience, the cultural grounding of her Inuit people, and her keen understanding of living in some of the most remote Native areas in the country will serve all first peoples in her role at the department of interior."

“Tara is a dedicated, hard-working and fearless leader focused on providing value and real results across local, national and international boundaries,” said Gabriel Kompkoff, President of the ANCSA Regional Association, the membership association of Alaska Native Regional Corporation CEOs. “Her passion shows through in every challenge she faces.”

Among her honors, Sweeney -- a lifetime member of the National Congress of American Indians -- was crowned Miss NCAI in 1993 and traveled the country as an ambassador for the organization. In 2003, Governor Frank Murkowski recognized Sweeney’s passion for rural Alaska, appointing her to his cabinet as Special Assistant for Rural Affairs and Education. In 2008 she was honored as a “Top Forty Under 40″ business leader by the Alaska Journal of Commerce. In 2014 her team was honored by the Northwest Regional Emmy® Awards, for its IAM IÑUPIAQ commercial campaign 2014, and also served as co-chair for Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) successful Senate campaign. In 2017 she was inducted into the Anchorage ATHENA Society, a program of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce that encourages the potential of women as valued members and leaders of the business community.

Born to Dr. Bryan Mac Lean and the Late Representative Eileen Panigeo Mac Lean, Sweeney is the granddaughter of the Late May Ahmaogak Panigeo and the Late Henry Panigeo of Barrow. She is the great granddaughter of the Late Bert and Nellie Panigeo and Isabel and Dr. Roy Ahmaogak. She was raised, attended schools and lived most of her life in rural Alaska in villages from Noorvik to Wainwright, Barrow, Bethel, and Unalakleet. She graduated from Barrow High School in 1991. A 1998 graduate of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations with a Bachelor of Science Degree, Sweeney currently lives in Anchorage with her husband Kevin, and their two children, Caitlin and Ahmaogak.

From U.S. Department of Interior