By Randy Parks
Gabe First Raised, a member of the Burns Paiute Tribe, is a former stand-out for the Nadzitsaga team. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)
Last November, Rick Roy, the head coach of the local Nadzitsaga lacrosse team, received an invitation to participate in the Six Nations High School Field Lacrosse Invitational, to be held May 23-26 at the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada.
“For me, it’s like being invited to the White House. Not everybody gets invited to do this,” Roy said.
To understand the true importance and significance of the invitation, Roy said you have to look back at the history of the game and the direction, or misdirection, it has taken in recent years.
Roy said that the invitation came from Iroquois Lacrosse, a program that promotes the game from the Iroquois perspective. “They are viewed as the originators of the game,” Roy said. “Their game is a spiritual one, played to please the Creator, and sometimes called the ‘Creator’s game.’ With the expansion of the game, the understanding and real meaning is being lost to commercialism.”
To combat the commercialism, Roy said Iroquois Lacrosse has jumped to the forefront. “They’re saying, ‘This is our game and it’s being misrepresented.’ We’re all working to preserve the traditional approach to the game,” Roy stated.
Part of that work includes introducing the game to youths on reservations as a way to address several social issues, including the nine reservations in Oregon. “It’s a matter of helping and healing kids through the spiritual aspect of the game,” Roy said.
Roy has been coaching the Nadzitsaga team since 2008, and has remained true to the game’s roots, including pre- and post-game prayers. “We’re the only tribal-affiliated lacrosse team in the state, working with the Burns Paiute Tribe,” Roy said. “We weren’t invited because we’re good. It’s recognition from the Iroquois, in their way, and it’s a huge honor to be invited to play the game, on their turf, against the inventors of the game.”
The Six Nations High School Field Lacrosse Invitational
Roy said he wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than 20 teams at the event, including Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, N.Y., Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, Quebec, Cattaraugus Seneca Nation, N.Y., and Oneida Nation, Wisc.
The Nadzitsaga team will be made up of a core of Harney County players, and rounded out with players from other programs around the state who have indigenous backgrounds. “This is going to be cultural education for the kids. They’ll learn a lot of history and get to see the originators of the game play. It’s much larger than just going there and playing,” Roy said.
To help pay for the trip, the team will be conducting a number of fund-raisers. They have a collection bin for returnable cans and bottles at Glory Days and are planning a couple of dinners. They’re also exploring the possibility of getting grants. Anyone wanting to make a donation can contact Schelly Daugherty at Shepherd Graphics in Burns.
“The kids will have to raise some money, but this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” Roy said.
Bill Rexford, coach of the Sisters lacrosse team, will also accompany the team as co-coach.
Roy said he hopes the players that make the trip go back to their programs and talk about the experience, as well as teach it from a Native American viewpoint.
“We’ve got to get the game away from being a suburban-Anglo-yuppie game,” Roy said. “People have to understand there’s another side to the game, the real side.”
To help retain the game’s history and integrity, U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body, has started the Keeper of Lacrosse Project.
According to the U.S. Lacrosse website: “The Keeper Project is a grassroots movement focused on protecting and promoting the values of lacrosse. It is critical that each generation that played the sport own the responsibility of safeguarding the integrity and spirit of the game for future generations. The game is in your hands. Take good care of it.
“The purpose of the Keeper Project is to launch a culture preservation campaign and instill the six core values that are the foundation of the sport in the next generation.
“The six core values are:
• Spirit of the game
Participating in lacrosse for the love of the game, with the pure intention of playing hard and fair while nurturing the soul, is pursuing lacrosse in the spirit of the game. Play lacrosse because you love it.
The handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to the next invites you to be a part of something bigger than yourself. These form the basis of the culture of lacrosse and the character of those who participate. You have a duty to share the history of the sport as a means of continued connection, enjoyment and honoring the game for the next generation.
• Virtues: respect, honor, integrity
These virtues are positive traits that are fundamental to the development of good character. All lacrosse participants — players, coaches, officials, spectators — who consistently hone these traits form enduring habits of head, heart and hand, faithful to the spirit of the game.
Respect — To act in a way that shows you are aware of and fully value the participants, rules and spirit of the game means that you hold the sport’s traditions in the highest regard and esteem.
Honor — To behave with high moral standards that show you fully appreciate the privilege of playing lacrosse. Honor the opportunity to participate through grace and humility.
Integrity – To serve the game well means that you will act with honesty and sincerity on and off the field, undivided in head, heart and hand.
• Good sportsmanship
Displaying qualities of conduct and attitude highly regarded in sport – fair play, courtesy, generosity, observance of the rules, striving spirit and grace in losing – is paramount. Each person, teammate or opponent, is part of the same game. Valuing the experience over the outcome serves the greater good and is integral to the spirit of the game.
A joint action performed by a group of people in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group. No one is bigger than the game; it is important to recognize the team as the defining entity in lacrosse, and the reason for the game.
Long after the last game, something else remains: connection, camaraderie, community. Lacrosse forges friendships, unity and family. As the game grows, you must embrace the spirit and philosophy of a shared identity.”
“Lacrosse is no longer a regional sport,” Roy said. “It’s spread across the country, it’s being played in Europe and all around the world. It’s important to keep the game true to its roots.”