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We know today that the benefits of physical activity include not only a healthy body, but a healthy mind. We feel the effects of endorphins and the see the results of regular workouts in our personal bests and timed miles. Any physical activity can be qualified as preventative medicine, but what qualifies lacrosse as a “medicine game”? What do we mean when we say medicine game?
Jesuit missionaries lived in various communities and saw firsthand the power that the game held. Jean de Brebeuf was one such missionary. In 1636 he lived in a village that frequently used lacrosse as a way to heal people or mend political rifts. Brebeuf states:
“Or perhaps the patient has dreamed that he must die unless the whole country plays lacrosse for his health. Then, no matter how insignificant the person may be, you will see a fine field where village contends against village for lacrosse supremacy, with the wagers of beaver robes and beaded necklaces spurring them on. Sometimes, also, one of these shamans will say that the whole country is sick, and he calls for a game of lacrosse to heal it. No more needs to be said; word quickly spreads, and all the captains of every village order that all the young men do their duty in this respect; otherwise some great misfortune will befall the whole country” (The Jesuit Relations, Greer).
From Brebeuf’s account, it is clear that lacrosse is not for an elite class or strictly for people in leadership positions. It is a game for everyone, to be played for nearly any healing purpose. When lacrosse is played as a medicine game it transcends our physical world and it is no longer about the individual players or even their team as a whole. Games like this are still played today in many native communities.
The Iroquois people are arguably the nation that most everyone associates with the game of lacrosse. While they are the creators of the game most similar to the modern version of the game we play today, there were many nations across North American that had their own version.
Above is a map that shows the territory of the nations that played lacrosse or a version of it.
The nations and what they called the game are listed below.
Iroquois: Tewaarathon or Teiontsikwaeks
Eastern Cherokee: Da-na-wah’-uwsdi
Upper Great Plains: Pe-kt-twe
When people talk about the lacrosse, the hotbeds you can’t forget are, of course, Baltimore and Long Island with New England starting to make a pretty strong case. With championship wins, all-star players and top Division I programs, how can these places not be lacrosse lands? But what about the places that don’t have DI programs, NLL teams or MLL teams? What about the places that planted the seeds of the game and are now grounded by the deepest roots? What about Akwesasne?
Akwesasne is a unique Mohawk community straddling the borders of New York, Ontario and Quebec. With the Adirondack Mountains close in the East and the St. Lawrence river marking the northern border of the territory, the land is rich and is capable of sustaining a variety of flora and fauna. Hickory trees have grown in abundance here and have helped place Akwesasne on the world map.
Traditional wooden lacrosse sticks are made from hickory wood. This tree is dense and can absorb a great deal of shock, but it also responds to steam bending very well. Perfect for making a lacrosse stick.
So what do you get when you have a community that has cultural and spiritual connections to the game, has a steady supply of hickory and is located in a prime trade zone? You get the majority of the world’s lacrosse stick supply. One of the largest lacrosse stick factories was located on Cornwall Island and was owned by the Roundpoint family. They operated from 1930 until 1960 when the factory was lost in a fire (Teiontsikwaeks, North American Travelling College). The emergence of easily accessible plastic molded heads meant that the demand for wood sticks diminished, but in the last 15 years or so, the desire for wood sticks has returned. Lacrosse players and fans alike are learning about the roots of the game and coming to appreciate the significance of the wood stick again.
Purchase a Traditional Wooden Stick on our website from November 14-December 24th and receive Free Shipping on your purchase.
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Why do we make our sticks from Hickory?
Everything in this world was given a purpose by the Creator and it is the hickory tree’s purpose to be made into a lacrosse stick. One of the most dense and resilient woods native to North America, hickory can be steamed and bent easily, but it still retains its shock-resistant abilities after being reshaped. Our people recognized this early on and saw that not only was the wood perfect for making a stick from, but that the hickory itself held lessons for the player. This particular wood possesses strength and flexibility; characteristics that every lacrosse player needs in order to be successful. Characteristics that every lacrosse player is reminded to develop every time he picks up his stick.
ILGear.com has something big to show you today. A good friend of mine from Upstate New York — Evan Cree, a longtime lacrosse player and traditionalist — has been hard at work for many months building toward the launch of a new lacrosse equipment and lifestyle apparel company, named Traditional Lax and also branded as "TLax."