(Photo: Iroquois Nationals)
The sport of Lacrosse is of Native American origin. The Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee), a collection of six Native American nations in the United States and Canada, claim to have invented it. They maintain their own national team known as the Iroquois Nationals. They are very good, especially considering that they're working from a small population base: about 120,000 people. In fact, they missed the 2010 World Championships only because they insisted on travelling under their own national passports, which are not internationally recognized.
For many Iroquois, success at lacrosse is a source of pride:
For these men the game is not always about winning. It’s very much rooted in culture and tradition. It is also referred to as the Creator’s Game, Hill said. “I’ve been raised to play with a clear mind and to respect my opponents. We play for the Creator’s enjoyment because he gave it to us.”
“It’s a spiritual game and a medicine game first,” said Ward. “When you pick up your stick it’s got to be an extension of you.”
And those traditional sticks became a point of contention in Sunday’s game. In front of a sold-out crowd, Team Canada nosed the Nationals out by a goal scored with 19 seconds left in the game.
The Nationals use the traditional hickory sticks, which are heavier than the contemporary plastic and titanium sticks used by Team Canada. Following penalty calls against the Nationals during the game, the ESPN announcer contended that the wooden stick should be illegal in international competition, adding that it should never be used as a weapon.
Those hickory lacrosse sticks are controversial. Each one is four times heavier than a plastic and aluminum stick:
It’s “like a friggin' weapon. It nearly kills you,” a former Iroquois national player told Sports Illustrated in 2010. “I feel I'm more of a threat with a wooden stick. You can just see it in the other team,” Iroquois defenseman Kevin Bucktooth said. “When the ball swings around to your man, they never come in one-on-one.”