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"> Ivy Santana: The Right Path | USA Lacrosse Magazine

After witnessing friends go down the wrong path due to drugs and alcohol, Ivy Santana became determined to change her course, not only playing for the younger generation, but also those who never got the chance. (PHOTO BY BILL ZISKIN)

Ivy Santana: The Right Path


This article, as told to Matt DaSilva, appears in the April edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, which includes a special 10-page section featuring faces and voices of the Native American lacrosse community. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

Ivy Santana ni:’gaya:söh ga:nyö’öka:’. Onödagö:gwa:h ni:’knöge’. Degyö’sgae’ niwagoshiya’göh. Dave Santana haya:söh neh hage’neh. Rachel Tallchief yeya:söh neh akno’ëh. Agata:yö:nih. Onödowa’ga:’ ni:’ah.

In Seneca this means: Ivy Santana is my English name. Bucktown is where I live. 18 is how old I am. Dave Santana is my father’s name. Rachel Tallchief is my mother’s name. I am of the wolf clan. Seneca is my nation. 

One day at work during a high school internship, I was waiting for my kindergarten class to finish going to the bathroom. I had this feeling someone was looking at me. I looked over, and saw this little girl staring at me. When we made eye contact, she quickly turned away.

She went to one of the other teachers and asked, “Is that girl over there Ivy?” After she found out who I was, she came over, yanked on my shirt and asked, “Did you play lacrosse on Sunday?”

When I told her yeah, she told me something I’d never forget.

“I want to play just like you when I get older.”

I was speechless. I smiled at her and said, “Keep working hard, and you will one day. You might even be better than me."


“They left her there, not knowing if she was dead or alive. They just left her there.”


I’m studying business at Albany. I want to open up my own business on the reservation, a recruiting service where we can help Native American athletes. We make their highlight reel and help their parents through the process, getting in contact with college coaches — and making sure they’re staying on the right path.

Some of my friends went down the wrong path. In a way, I let them take me down that wrong path with drinking.

I had never seen anything wrong with it until someone crashed his car drinking and driving. One of my close friends — I consider her a cousin — was left in the car. She was basically blacked out. They had seen a police car coming. They all jumped out of the car and went running. They left her there, not knowing if she was dead or alive. They just left her there.

I was at that same party. My father went to jail for a while because of drugs and alcohol, but he eventually changed. He realized, “I’m going to end up dead for all of this, because there’s no other outcome.” I told myself the same thing. From there on out, I just disciplined myself, but I kind of left my friends behind.

A couple of deaths have happened where it was kids my age. I’m always afraid to get a text, “So-and-so died, Ivy. I’m so sorry. I know you were close friends.”

I know of kids that started smoking when they were 12. Every other weekend, we have someone overdosing. When are people going to open their eyes and say enough is enough?








My dad is one of the biggest role models in my life. He’s my best friend. He helped a lot getting me where I am today — giving up vacation time, vacation money, to take me to tournaments. Driving, staying up all night long to get me to a tournament the next day. Sometimes he doesn’t even sleep in a hotel.

Even now at my college games, he’ll sleep in the car in a parking lot of where my game is and meet me the next morning. It shows how much commitment he has to me being here. Who wouldn’t want that in a parent?

When we began to get really close was when I almost gave up on lacrosse in eighth grade. At a recruiting event, I got jitters and ended up not playing as well as I wanted. I really let it get to me.

I’m normally the teammate that’s laughing all the time, goofing around between games. And I was just kind of sitting quiet. One of my teammates asked, “Ivy, are you OK?




PHOTO BY BILL ZISKIN


You know how when you’re already down and someone asks you if you feel OK, you get that knot in your throat? I’m not the type of person to let people see me crying. So I got up, and my father saw me walking away. He came over to me, and asked, “What’s wrong?” I started bawling my eyes out.

“I don’t think I’m good enough, Dad. I can’t do what everyone wants me to do. I can’t go D-I. I suck. I can’t do it.”

He looked at me and asked, “Really, Ivy? You’re just going to give up not only on yourself, but all the other girls looking up to you and wanting to be where you’re at right now?”

He often reminds me to think about my great-grandmother, and how she never had the chance to play this game. She was sent to a boarding school. I think about her a lot. She is what motivates me. I don’t just play for the younger generation. I play for the older generation that never had the chance to play.