The History of Lacrosse

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The History of Lacrosse

Jenna Ranney, Feature Editor

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Lacrosse is a very popular sport throughout the east coast and is spreading throughout the nation quickly. In the United States, there are many ways to play lacrosse, whether it is in school or a club team. There is so much history behind this sport and roots that are unrecognized by most. Lacrosse was derived from the Native Americans and originally called “stickball.”

Native terminology called lacrosse “Onondaga Dehuntshigwa’es”, meaning “men hit a rounded object, or just “stickball.” The word “lacrosse” was derived from French settlers, who used the term “crosse” for a game played with a curved stick.

Lacrosse back then was nothing like it is now. Rules have been extensively modified and changed to be more uniform. This sport was exclusively for the males in the tribes where games could last for days and it was a huge event. Games could consist of hundreds to thousand of players and boundaries did not exist. To start the game, the ball was thrown up in the air and whoever caught it first, got the ball. Native Americans made netted racquets made from deer sinew. Balls were originally made from wood but later changed to deer skin with fur inside. The only rule they had was that they were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands.

The Native Americans considered these games a huge factor in toughening up the young, getting them ready to be warriors. Some games were even played to determine territory between tribes. Such as the Creek vs Choctaw game around 1790 to determine the rights over a beaver pond. The Creeks were declared the winners. Even though these games could be violent, they also played for recreation and religious purposes. These games were very intense and competitive, with the few little rules they had. They would paint their face and body with charcoal to be intimidating.

Later, around the 1900’s, lacrosse started to become banned for the Native Americans. Betting and violence were starting to spiral out of control. The game was starting to affect their church attendance and wellbeing, as many were getting injured or killed. Not all tribes were like this and most still used the game for the same purposes as early on, but some tribes were violent. The Oklahoma Choctaw tribe began to attach lead weights to their sticks to use them as skull-crackers.

The Native Americans were the root of lacrosse and helped spread it all over the world. Clubs were created in many countries (mainly Canada), the game was integrated into school systems, and the game was no longer just for men. Now, we have many rules and regulations to protect each player and modifications were put in place but there is still lots of competitiveness. Lacrosse is still growing this day, spreading from the east coast and making its way toward the west.

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