While Native Americans originated the game of lacrosse, many children in reservation communities today have never touched a stick. Native Vision, a sports and life skills program led by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, is working to change that in partnership with indigenous players and mentors from the lacrosse community. (Alf Jacques, Onondaga Nation, below).
Twelve years ago, Native Vision offered the first lacrosse camp at its annual summer sports and life skills camp, which brings as many as 1,000 children between the ages of 7-18 to a reservation-based site around the country. While many children gravitated to basketball or football, once they tried lacrosse they were hooked.
“In essence, it is a reintroduction of ‘lacrosse’ into Native territories where the game has faded in their historical past,” said David Bray, an American Indian Athletic Hall of Famer for Men’s Lacrosse and former coach for Cornell University and the Iroquois Nationals. “There is great pride that they are playing a Native sport,” he said.
The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, which has a 30-year history of promoting public health in partnership with tribal communities, brings dozens of former professional and collegiate athletes annually to serve as coaches and mentors at the annual Native Vision camp. The athletes conduct sports clinics interspersed with breakouts sessions promoting education, healthy lifestyles, self-esteem, discipline, and cultural pride.
Native Vision, which added a year-round program eight years ago, helps children develop relationships with the athlete mentors, many of whom are Native American, that can put them on a safe and healthy path forward. Children also set goals—such as finishing high school, going to college, or beyond.
“One camper was interested in becoming a doctor,” said Bray. “We discussed the educational requirements and medical field opportunities,” he said. This advice coming from an indigenous lacrosse hero can become inspiration children retain for many years.
Native Vision’s 2019 Camp in Bernalillo, New Mexico
The Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos are hosting this year’s Native Vision camp from June 13-15 at Bernalillo High School outside Albuquerque, NM. Hundreds of children will develop a passion for lacrosse and return home with lacrosse sticks and balls to teach a friend and cultivate their skills until next year’s camp.
Native Vision is offered at no charge to children and relies on charitable donations to operate. You can help provide this opportunity for more Native American boys and girls. Just $200, which covers food, transportation, and equipment, will support a camper for three—an experience that could change their life’s trajectory. Please give today.
- Martin Sheen-Narrated Video about Native Vision