“The Creator’s Game” was a game that lasted for days and included hundreds of men from indigenous tribes. There were no player restrictions, boundaries or time limits. It was used as war preparation, entertainment and sometimes even to settle disputes between tribes. They used a wooden stick with a small, circular net on top and balls that were made out of deer skin. Some even believe the sport was a medicinal gift from the Creator.
Does this sport sound familiar?
How about its modern name, lacrosse?
The sport of lacrosse began to look more familiar to you and I during the 1800s, when the first major changes to the game were made. The actual name “lacrosse” came from French missionaries in the 1600s who first witnessed the game being played among indigenous tribes. The French thought their sticks resembled the bishop’s cross carried during religious ceremonies and Jean de Brébeuf gave it the name La Crosse, or “the cross.” As more European colonizers started to observe the game, they brought it back to Europe and started making changes to how the sport was played. In 1856, Montreal Lacrosse Club became the first organized team in Canada to play with their own rules and new style of sticks. Shortly after, Dr. William George Beers created the first official rule book of lacrosse in 1869.
At that point in time, the game of lacrosse no longer resembled the Creator’s Game. Colleges in the United States began forming teams and competing. In 1890, the first women’s lacrosse game was played in Scotland, with eight players on each team for an hour-long game and a ten minute half-time. It was not until 1926 that the first women’s lacrosse team was founded in America at The Bryn Mawr School, a private all-girls school in Baltimore, Maryland.
As time went on, more changes were made to the sport. Field boundaries were set, the goal, rather than just being a wood pole, became a triangle with a net, players started wearing pads and there were restrictions on how many players could be on the field at once and how long the games would last.
While some might believe the game of lacrosse still connects to its indigenous history, the only thing that connects today’s modern game to the game played hundreds of years ago is that it is the fastest sport on two feet and the goal of the game is to keep the ball in the air.
But a recent change to the sport could sever its ties to the Creator’s Game forever: Sixes. In Sixes, there are six players from each team on the field, a 30-second shot clock and four 8-minute quarters. The goalies start the play with a clear after every goal rather than a draw or face-off, which only happens at the start of each quarter, and everyone plays every position.
While World Lacrosse believes it is a modern interpretation of the indigenous game, the Haudenosaunee National men’s team was not even originally invited to play in the 2022 World Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), who ran the tournament, did not include the number 3 world-ranked team since the IOC did not acknowledge them as an independent nation. Ireland willingly gave up their spot in the tournament because they believed it was important that the original players of the game were represented. This is not the first time the Haudenosaunee national teams, men and women, were not allowed to travel and play in the World Games. In 2010, the United Kingdom would not accept the teams’ Haudenosaunee passports and were told to get U.S. or Canadian passports if they wanted to participate in the games. In 2015, the same thing happened to the women’s U-19 team in Scotland, and were told to get new passports to be able to play in the 2018 games in Israel.
This new Sixes game might be played in the 2028 Summer Olympics, thereby introducing sixes to viewers who never knew the original version of the sport. While the history of lacrosse continues to be recognized through social media and Premiere Lacrosse League, a professional lacrosse league that players on the Haudenosaunee national team compete in, the game itself has changed and moved away from its origins. But as these major changes are made, people who don’t know a lot about the game will never know the indigenous values of the game of lacrosse and if the IOC does not acknowledge the Haudenosaunee as an independent nation, will the creators of the game even be able to represent themselves in the biggest international competition?