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Maxwell Kelsey Ojibwe lacrosse stick maker
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Maxwell Kelsey: Ojibwe Lacrosse Stick Maker

With the rapid growth of the game of lacrosse, many are losing connections to the game’s roots. Newcomers often don’t realize that the sport is of Native American heritage and if they do, they likely haven’t uncovered the tip of the iceberg of what the really means. The modern game of lacrosse was developed from Native stick-ball games and one in particular is on the rise when it comes to reconnecting the modern sport and its roots.

This version of the game, known as baaga’adowe, was brought to life by the Ojibwe tribe, spanning from Canada to the United States, mostly around the Great Lakes region near current day Minnesota. The community is still flourishing in the Midwest, but some of the original connections to their stick-ball game were dwindling.

Cue woodworker Maxwell Kelsey of Bemidji, MN, who was inspired by his former health teacher and lacrosse coach to help create the tools needed to reintroduce this culturally significant game to it’s original participants.

Kelsey is taking his time to create accurate replicas of Great Lakes style lacrosse sticks to use in actual ceremonies and games. In the video we watch as he creates a full set of 30 Ojibwe sticks to use in full 12 on 12 play.

Inspired by Birch bark canoes and the craftsmen that came before him, Kelsey shares some of the details and processes of making historic lacrosse sticks by hand.

Maxwell Kelsey considers himself a “maker” who explores his surrounding to create a functional art piece that is inspired by hunter-gatherer techniques to keep survival and cultural practices alive. Watch as Maxwell does his thing, there’s no way you couldn’t learn something!

Special thanks to Lakeland Public Television for sitting down with Maxwell to bring his story to life and make sure to contact Maxwell if you have interest in picking up one of his sticks for your collection!