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History of Lacrosse
Lacrosse has been a long standing traditional game running deep in Native American History. Although the first written document was recorded around the 1600′s when French Jesuits came to the land, Lacrosse was most likely played long before that. It is difficult to accurately depict a time-line of the sport due to the scarcity of documents in Native American culture.
However still being recognized as the oldest sport in North America, accounts of the game being played in it’s originality do exist.
Before Europeans came to North America, Native Americans had a rich bond with the land. Native American spirituality was based on creational stories that tried to explain how life as they know it came to be. The lack of boundaries and unlimited number of players came to represent the infinite number of stars in the nighttime sky.
Lacrosse was played throughout North America; it was played by the Mexican Kickapoo in Texas, the Seminole in Florida, the Bungi in Manitoba, the Cherokee in Tennessee, and the Passamaquoddy in Maine.
As the influence of Lacrosse spread, variations of the game began to emerge. Rules, types of games, and meanings all began to take shape as each tribe was introduced to the sport. Fields could extend from a few hundred yards to a couple of miles apart while the number of players varied widely. Numbers could range from a dozen or so to teams that consisted of entire villages. Such accounts depict games that looked similar to a war scene with hundreds of players on each side.
As with any area throughout the world resources varied with location. Goals would be made from large rocks, trees, poles or between two uprights. Balls were generally made from clay, stone, wood, or leather skin stuffed with deer hair. Tribal customs determined the size and shape of the lacrosse sticks. Tribes from the southeast such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole played with two sticks at a time that measured 2 and half feet in length. The Iroquoian sticks are the modern day progenitor of the sticks we use today. You may have seen pictures of them. They measure more than 3 feet long with a full wooden body and leather netting.
Each tribe played the sport for different purposes such as healing, paying tribute to their gods, as a from of recreation, training for the art of war or settling disputes between neighboring tribes. The Choctaw tribe from the southeast called the game ‘kapucha toli” which translates to “little brother of war”. In 1790, a Creek versus Choctaw game played to determine rights over beaver pond broke out in a violent battle when the Creeks were declared winners. This is an example of how fragile the rules of Lacrosse were. They really weren’t many rules, far from the standard we know today.
According to the Iroquois, Lacrosse was a gift from the creator that was to be played for his enjoyment and as of form of healing. Iroquois legend has it that the game was first played between the four-legged animals and winged birds. You can find this creative story at Iroquoisnationals.org.
If you are interested in more information about the evolution of Lacrosse, I’ve listed more sites for you to visit.
In addition I’ve found a great site for learning more about Native American culture listed below. Its a very informative site that lists tribes regionally. Enjoy!