Lacrosse is a game of healing, commonly referred to as the medicine game. In times of loss and hardship, we can pick up a stick to find peace. Last March, Paul Carcaterra shared an emotional tribute to his friend Rob Kavovit. He spoke of how Landry and Luke Kavovit will use the game as medicine to remember and celebrate their departed father.
The Haudenosaunee believed lacrosse was a gift from the Creator. Lacrosse was created so that men could work out their aggression without violence. In Fate of a Sport, PLL Attackman Lyle Thompson spoke of how the stick helps to explain the origins of the game.
“That’s where all the teaching are. Our culture, our law is nature. We personify that stick. My grandfather has played the game. My father has played the game. People say it’s our game, but it’s not our game. We brought it to the people of this earth. It was a gift to us from the creator, we’re just passing this on.”
– Lyle Thompson, Cannons Attackman
The PLL has taken up the torch of growing and honoring the game beyond the field through their PLL Assists initiative. One of the goals of PLL Assists is to honor the heritage of the game.
PLL Assists works on achieving this goal through supporting various social activism initiatives like the #EveryChildMatters campaign. They also work with local Indigenous groups on activation ceremonies at their weekend events. PLL Assists Director Eric Mathieu spoke about the work his organization has done to honor the game.
“At the Premier Lacrosse League and PLL Assists, we are intentional about honoring the heritage and the origins of this game that we love. Our goal is for the lacrosse community and its fans to never lose sight of the fact that this sport is a gift from the Indigenous Nations who created Lacrosse as the “Medicine Game.” Working with Indigenous organizations such as Anishinabe Baagaadowewin and the Indigenous Lacrosse Association not only helps to educate us as a league but also to celebrate, alongside PLL fans, the rich history of the game and its creators. There’s something truly special about seeing a traditional cross up close and seeing the game played in its purest form. We’re truly grateful to our partners for bringing this history to PLL weekends.”
-Eric Mathieu, PLL Assists Director
Social Activism: Every Child Matters
The #EveryChildMatters campaign honors and remembers the 150,000 Indigenous children that attended residential schools in Canada between the late 1800s through the 1990s. There are an estimated 5,000 children that died under residential care. Those that survived along with their families still deal with and face the trauma of the abuse they experienced at their schools.
In remembrance and to show solidarity with the victims, the #EveryChildMatters campaign began. Those in support wear orange ribbons in their hair or orange shirts.
The orange honors the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad. Webstad wore an orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother to school. The shirt was taken from her, making her feel invisible and worthless. The experience has continued to impact Phyllis throughout her life.
PLL Assists created an Indigenous Heritage Collection to help raise funds for the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. The shirt honors Indigenous contributions to the game by:
- Dehontsigwaehs on the front of the shirt: “Lacrosse” Iroquois native term
- The artwork on the back of the shirt:
- Turtle Island- The Creation Story of the Iroquois Confederacy
- Tree of Peace- Symbol of Unity for the IRQ people
- Eagle- The Creator and Keeper of Peace
- The Orange heart on the sleeve for the #OneChildMatters campaign
Throughout the past two seasons, players in the PLL have had the option of wearing an orange helmet strap. The orange strap raises awareness for the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Fans can buy the same straps through the Lax Straps website.
In each venue, the PLL plays a land acknowledgment video narrated by Lyle Thompson. The video plays at the start of the games. It seeks to honor the lands inhabited, cared for, and respected by Indigenous peoples. Here is the opening video played during Week 1 in Albany.
In two of the regular season weekends this season, the PLL partnered with local Indigenous organizations in their in-stadium activations. In Week 5 in Minneapolis, the PLL partnered with the Anishinabe Baagaadowewin for a traditional game demonstration.
The Anishinabe Baagaadowewin mission is to awaken (the spirit), educate (the people), develop (the game) and unite (the fires). Tribal groups represented within the Anishinabe Nation include Odawa, Ojibway, Potawatomi, Delaware, Chippewa, Algonquin, and Mississauga. These tribal groups have interacted for countless generations and share common social, cultural, heritage, language, and spiritual customs and beliefs.
During the 2021 Minneapolis event, PLL Assists provided a short history of the Anishinabe Baagaadowewin.
This year in Seattle, the PLL partnered with the Indigenous Lacrosse Association for a traditional stick demonstration in the Premier Zone.
The ILA provides a structure and continues to open doors for our young Indigenous athletes to compete in nation-based events, and provincial, national, and international events. Creating opportunities for the next seven generations to compete at the highest level possible.
Lyle ends his land acknowledgement videos with a quote from his grandfather saying, “we cannot own the land, we can only occupy it, and while we’re here we respect it.”
The PLL and PLL assists have done that and will continue to honor the land and the creator’s game bringing medicine to all who play and watch.