July 11, 2011

Lyons explains lacrosse at White House

Lacrosse celebrates its Native American origins during visit to the White House

By Mike WiseAbout 80 children sat in the oppressive heat on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday morning. White, black, American Indian children—a rainbow coalition itching for the adults to stop talking so they could grab their sticks and play their sport in the president’s back yard.

And then Jim Brown’s former teammate came to the microphone, a resplendent ponytail poking out of the back of his hat.

“The game you have now in your hands belongs to our nation,” Oren Lyons said, raising his lacrosse stick, admiring the wood workmanship.

The stick, he said, represents the trees. The webbing, made of deer gut, “goes to the honor of our four-legged friends.”

“For us, lacrosse is a spiritual game—a connection to everything around us, not just a sport,” Lyons said. “We forget that and we miss what the game can still be.”

The Onondaga Nation faithkeeper is 81 now, one of the most respected of elders in the Native American community. Few who attended the first lady’s Let’s Move! Indian Country initiative knew of Lyon’s glorious athletic past. He was a college all-American who played goalie on Syracuse’s unbeaten 1957 national championship team featuring a guy who would become the NFL’s most indestructible running back, Brown, and whom Lyons still considers a close friend.
Comment:  For more on lacrosse, see Crooked Arrows Seeks "Authenticity" and Lacrosse Ball in Body of Proof.

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