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Scholastic Kids Press Corps
The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.
onandaga chief with a lacrosse stick Lacrosse player Chief Irving Powless, Jr. He's wearing a gustoweh, a headdress identifying one's nation. One feather pointing upward and another pointing downwards shows he is Onondaga. (Photo: ©Syracuse Newspapers/John Berry/The Image Works

The Origins of Lacrosse

Fast-growing sport was created by Native Americans

By Ellie Sommers | November 16 , 2011

Lacrosse is a sport that has grown in popularity in recent years, especially with kids. But the sport is one that has been around for a long time.

The Native American tribe known as the Iroquois created lacrosse centuries ago. It was originally called stickball because it was played with a ball and a stick. The first European account of stickball was made by a French Jesuit missionary in 1637.

The name was later changed to the French word la crosse (the stick). Native peoples played lacrosse to honor the Creator because it was his gift to them. Today, members of the Onondaga Nation, which is an Iroquois tribe, still refer to lacrosse as the Creator's Game.

Originally, "stickball" was played as a tribute to the Creator. Over the years, the game has been for recreational purposes. But even when it is played for fun, the Iroquois consider it a spiritual and healing sport.

In the early version of the sport, many people were involved in a single game.

"[There were] up to 100 to 120 players on the field at the same time," Alfred Jacques told the Kids Press Corps. Jacques has been making and selling traditional lacrosse sticks for 48 years at the Onondaga Nation, which is outside of Syracuse, New York. His father, Louis Jacques, used to make sticks and passed this skill along to his son.

"Before we play the [traditional] game, we have a religious ceremony before the game and a religious ceremony after the game," Jacques stated. They do this because lacrosse means a lot to the native people. "It is part of who we are as a people. It defines part of who we are."

Since the first European encounter with lacrosse, the sport has grown in popularity among people outside of the Native American community. It has become a scholastic, collegiate, and professional sport that many people play and watch in the United States and Canada. It is especially liked in the northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Midwest states.

As the sport has grown, it has also been modified. When the game was first played, tribesman didn't use equipment and only men were allowed to play. Today kids, amateurs, and professionals use protection gear like gloves, helmets, and padding. And women and girls have become active participants in the sport.

Gemma A. is a fifth grader from Central New York who has a real passion for the game. She has played lacrosse for seven years and has also gotten her brothers involved. Her cousins introduced the game to her and she immediately fell in love.

When asked what lacrosse means to her, Gemma declared, "To me, lacrosse is my life. I like lacrosse because it's a fun sport. I've been playing for a long time and I enjoy it."

American Indian Heritage Month

For more Kid Reporter coverage of the annual celebration of America's native heritage, check out the American Indian Heritage Month Special Report.

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