The thrill youngsters around the United States are now discovering for the first time is a thrill that Native American children have understood for centuries. But for the Iroquois, the game carries a deeper significance, said Scott Burnham, who plays with and coaches for the Nationals.
“I’ve heard it said that lacrosse was the only game that wasn’t invented out of boredom,” he said. “It’s a sacred game. It deserves the respect that we give it.”
The sanctity of lacrosse was a central theme of Saturday night’s contest. The game was billed as the highlight of the Hammonasset Native American Festival, a two-day celebration of Native American culture and heritage that began in 2005 and is now coupled with an environmentalist message.
“Lacrosse is within the theology of our world religion,” said Iroquois National Board Member Denise Waterman, a member of the Oneida Tribe from Onandoga. “It’s [played] in the communities, and never with a plastic stick. The wooden stick is one of our four major religious items.”
Lacrosse continues to play a central role in the Iroquois communities. No other sport is nearly as popular or as prominent on the reservations.
“I play because it’s a way of life for us here on the Onondaga reservation,” Iroquois attackman Gewas Schindler said, “It’s something that everyone here grows up doing. It’s in our blood, it’s in our heritage and it’s accessible to everyone. When I get out [on the field], I’m always trying to play with a good mind, to play for our Creator.”