We know it as the fastest sport on two feet. From the rapid growth at the youth level to the highly competitive professional game, we can thank Native Americans for what we know as “lacrosse.” In honor of Native American Day, the fourth Friday in September, Major League Lacrosse takes an introspective look at the history of the sport and the MLL athletes with roots in its origin.
While Major League Lacrosse consists of athletes who exude raw talent and integrity, some players understand the original spirit of the game more than others. Hamilton Nationals athletes like Jeremy Thompson, Sid Smith, Cody Jamieson and Craig Point have ties to the tribes that created the game. Nationals’ attackman Cody Jamieson says his Native American heritage hasn’t birthed a particular style or given him a competitive advantage, but he does boast the knowledge of the “Native American Way,” something he fears may be misconstrued by others.
“I’m not sure if people understand that the main thing is to be happy. We are happy whether we win or lose,” Jamieson said. “I have a lot of pride playing the game. It’s more than just a game, it’s a way of life, and I feel lucky to be able to go out there every day and play.”
Lacrosse was often played to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, and develop strong men. While history reveals that lacrosse was sometimes used to prepare men for battle, using fields that stretched 15 miles, Hamilton Nationals practice squad member Craig Point paints a very different picture of the characteristics he harnessed through the game of lacrosse, noting the importance of having a good mindset and a strong sense of camaraderie.
“I've grown up playing in my community with guys I've known my whole life, so it has always felt like we were playing as a family and that I had a responsibility to my team; like I would to my own family,” said Point.
Point shared his perspective on what his Native American roots mean, not only to himself, but to the entire lacrosse community. “I think it gives me deeper reasoning and meaning when I play. I play not just for myself, but for my family, my community and everyone who supported me along the way,” Point said. “When I play I'm always reminded to keep a good mind, not play out of hate or anger, even if I'm having an off game or get frustrated.”
The game of lacrosse was originally known as “baggataway.” Wooden sticks were usually two and a half feet or longer. They were netted triangular racquets used to catch and throw small balls generally made of deerskin. Time and technology have changed the game but the competitive nature has stayed the same.
On this 2011 Native American Day, we can thank the Indian Nations for the game of lacrosse, the fastest growing sport in the country.