Growing The Game in Indian Country – Eastern Oregon

cam bomberry wooden lacrosse stick

Editor’s Note: This Fall has been all about Growing The Game, and a big part of that is remembering, and fostering, the Native American roots of the game. While LAS was out on the GTG Tour, we got to stop by two Reservations in Montana.

Richard Roy, Game Grower extraordinaire, took the game to Native communities throughout Oregon with the help of a separate group of people. It’s been that kind of year so far! See below for Richard’s tale of Growing the Game.


During the week of October 9th, Cam Bomberry (Iroquois Lacrosse Program/Six Nations Reserve of the Grande River Territory, Ontario, Canada), John Meade (Oregon Department of Human Services-Child Protective Services/Coach for Swift Lacrosse/Oregon Native Youth Lacrosse Initiative) and myself (Richard Roy – Head Coach Harney-Nadzitsaga Lacrosse/Oregon Native Youth Lacrosse Initiative) spent six days together introducing and growing lacrosse within Native communities from throughout Oregon.

cam bomberry wooden lacrosse stick

John and I also brought some of our own lacrosse-playing children along for the week to help out, but more importantly, to learn about history (that you will never get in a history text book), to get out of their “comfort zones”, and to meet new people and make new friends.

The first part of this adventure had us attending the Annual Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act Conference hosted by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation (CTUIR) in Pendleton (northeast Oregon) to introduce lacrosse. The CTUIR is made up of the Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla Nations. John Meade was the major impetus (he would say, and maybe even some of his co-workers would agree, that he was a major pain in the rear end) to get lacrosse on the agenda for the conference. John and I worked the phones and emailed a lot of people to get this event put together.

On Wednesday, Cam Bomberry gave an extensive presentation on the origins of the game, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) beliefs and traditions of the game, and how lacrosse could be beneficial (Medicine) for Native youth. It was remakable how the various presentations on various culture and heritage efforts, Indian child welfare, and Cam’s presentation, all intertwined.

On Thursday afternoon, we held a lacrosse clinic at Nixyaawii School for 25-30 youth and numerous adults. We were surprised to learn that several Haudenosaunee now called the CTUIR home! You could see these individuals “reconnect” with their heritage during the clinic. We also saw several youth really embrace the stick and the game and we all witnessed a change in behavior and demeanor. Something that was quickly noticed by staff and teachers!

We had such a good response that we decided to hold another clinic on Friday morning before the conference ended. We had another good turn out. The kids and adults had a blast. We left behind a bunch of sticks and balls and we are now working with the CTUIR and a couple other Oregon lacrosse programs (Lincoln and Hermiston) to get lacrosse firmly established.

On Friday, we said goodbye to our new friends and drove 5+ hours south through the Blue Mountains to Burns, Oregon to attend the Burns Paiute Tribe’s 40th Annual Reservation Day Celebration, Reception, Medicine Games and Pow Wow, held at the Harney County Fairgrounds. I have been working with the Burns Paiute Tribe for 7 years on lacrosse. They had originally approached me to “teach us our game.”

For the last few years we have been having a fall lacrosse event played in a more “traditional” manner. We play these games as Medicine, to honor certain individuals or groups and to give thanks. This year, the Pow Wow Committee asked if our lacrosse program would like to join them and be part of the whole overall event. We said yes!

This year we played to help celebrate the establishment of the reservation in the aboriginal lands of the Burns Paiute (Wadatika Band of the Northern Paiute). We also played the last game of the day as a “condolence” game for Fritz Hayes and as Medicine to help the Oregon lacrosse community heal.

As a result of Cam’s presentation and the clinics, we are now working with at least four other Oregon reservations introduce lacrosse and hold clinics.

This adventure in growing lacrosse would not have been possible without cooperation of Cam Bomberry and Kevin Sandy of the Iroquois Lacrosse Program, Delmor Jacobs (Dao Jao Dre), Oregon Youth Lacrosse Association, Medicine Man Lacrosse, Bigfoot Lacrosse, Lincoln Lacrosse, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Burns Paiute Tribe and the Oregon Department of Human Services.

For more photos, check out the album on our Facebook page! For more GTG in new places, check out Tommy Schreiber’s Reflections: From Princeton to Uganda.