Growing The Game In Indian Country – Eastern Oregon Part 2

Cam Bomberry set the tone.

Editor’s NoteRichard Roy and John Meade, Game Growers extraordinaire, took the game of lacrosse to Native communities throughout Oregon with the help of many others, and as part of the Oregon Native Youth Lacrosse Association. This is Part 2 of their epic journey to GTG in Eastern Oregon… in Indian Country.


On October 18th John Meade and I, along with over 20 high school and youth lacrosse players from the Hermiston, Corvallis, Swift and Nadzitsaga-Harney lacrosse programs, gathered to play a “demonstration” lacrosse game at the Nixyaawii School on the Umatilla Indian Reservation outside of Pendleton, Oregon.

The Umatilla Indian Reservation is confederated, and is therefore made up of the Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla Nations. This event was coordinated and organized by the Oregon Native Youth Lacrosse Association. It was a follow up to a presentation and clinics put on by Cam Bomberry of the Iroquois Lacrosse Program the previous month.

Cam Bomberry set the tone.

Some players traveled over 200 miles, one-way, just to participate in this event and play lacrosse for three hours on a Sunday afternoon. There were about 30 spectators in the stands to witness their first lacrosse game.

Marcus Luke, General Council Vice-Chairman of Umatilla Reservation, and cultural and religious leader, performed a traditional blessing prior to the game in the Umatilla language-Sahaptin dialect. Robby Bill, also a member of the Umatilla Reservation, and Manager of the Youth Wellness Program of the Yellowhawk Circles of Care, performed a blessing at the conclusion of the day.

Nixyaawii School_lacrosse

The goal was to play and demonstrate the game to administrators, parents, adults and students and to Grow the Game on the Umatilla Reservation in a manner that is respectful, meaningful and relevant to the issues and needs of the community. Several Umatilla youth suited up and jumped in and played. The game was up tempo, hard fought, and competitive, and the score was completely irrelevant.

We are not trying to replicate the suburban-Anglo lax bro lacrosse culture on reservations or in the Native community in Oregon at-large. We are approaching the game in a manner that incorporates the Native teachings, history, tradition and culture of the game with the hope of addressing the myriad of issues facing Native youth. The game is the vehicle not the destination. The Game is Medicine.

The Oregon Native Youth Lacrosse Association (ONYLA) will be working with theUmatilla Reservation to help them build a lacrosse program through assistance in acquiring equipment, training coaches and officials, as well as coordinating grant writing and/or equipment donations. The ONYLA has also recently approached the Oregon Chapter of USLacrosse with a 5 year business plan for funding to continue this important work on the remaining reservations in Oregon. During 2013 we will be conducting more presentations and clinics with the Iroquois Lacrosse Program on at least four reservations.