PHOTO COURTESY OF VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS

Jacelyn Lazore: 'It's Not Just a Sport. It's My Identity.'


This story originally appeared on HokieSports.com and is being republished with permission from Virginia Tech Athletics. Jacelyn Lazore is a senior attacker from the Akwesasne Nation (N.Y.).

Lacrosse has always been a major part of my life.

To me, it’s not just a sport.

It’s my identity.

Many don’t know that lacrosse was invented by Native Americans, specifically, by my people.

My people are the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy.

I became fascinated by the game not only because my people created this amazing sport for us to enjoy, but it was also the fastest game I’ve seen in my life.

I’d never seen two feet move faster on a field.

I’d never witnessed a ball move as quickly as it does in lacrosse.

I was mesmerized.

As a young native woman, though, lacrosse is not the easiest sport to get into.

I received tons of backlash once I began playing — because women playing lacrosse goes against our ancestral beliefs.

I can’t say it didn’t bother me, but I loved this sport with all my heart. The game is an integral part of my ancestry.

However, I knew that if I wanted to help this game grow and change the views of women playing lacrosse, I had to keep playing and earn the support from my community and respect from my elders.  

And I had a much bigger responsibility than to just play lacrosse at a higher level. I was going to use my voice to spread awareness and educate others about my people and the history of this game.


“At a young age, quite simply and innocently, I just wanted to play lacrosse for the love of the sport.”

— Jacelyn Lazore


THE MEDICINE GAME

Growing up, as a little girl, I only knew lacrosse as the men’s game.

Also known as the medicine game.

Way back when lacrosse was first created, the men would play for the creator’s entertainment. In return, the creator would heal the sick and ill people within the communities.

The women could watch, but they were not allowed to play.

Their job was to take care of the children, elderly, household, etc., as lacrosse was intended to be played by men for the creator.

The sport’s intention was also to bring everyone together. The women would spectate, the men would play, and it would bring unity and healing. It would also allow the men to settle their grieving arguments and come together and play.

Hence why it’s called the medicine game.

It goes without saying that I wasn’t exactly born with a lacrosse stick in my hand.

While I’ve always loved lacrosse, it has a complicated history with women, particularly in the minds of the older, traditional generation.

I never wanted to disrespect anyone, especially my elders, whom I have such great admiration for.

At a young age, quite simply and innocently, I just wanted to play lacrosse for the love of the sport.








GROWING THE SPORT AND CHANGING STEREOTYPES

While lacrosse does have a complex history with women, I was fortunate that my parents and grandparents were vastly open-minded. They saw the affection I had for the sport and supported me every step of the way.

I feel incredibly blessed in that regard.

As I kept improving and getting better through the years, I also knew I had a responsibility to create awareness about lacrosse and my people’s history of the game.

And I don’t feel burdened by that responsibility like a weight on my shoulders.

Quite the opposite, actually. 

I treat it like a badge of honor.

It’s truly alarming to know how many people don’t know about the history of lacrosse.

When I was at boarding school in Massachusetts, I couldn’t believe how many people had no idea that Native Americans were the ones who created lacrosse.

These were innocent conversations, and no one meant any harm by them, but if you’re around lacrosse and play lacrosse, I believe it’s important to know the game’s history.

I’m playing lacrosse at Virginia Tech now.

The ACC.

At this level, I think it’s important for anyone associated with this game to know the impact my people had on it.

The sport wouldn’t exist without us.

Going a step further than that, though, I can’t believe those who think Native Americans aren’t around anymore.

As if we’ve all just vanished.

That can mess with a person’s psyche. 

It’s messed with mine.

I was able to move past all that through lacrosse, and my passion to represent my people.

I’m able to identify myself and my identity through this game.

For my people.

I’d still continue to spread this knowledge about my Native American history and ancestry if it weren’t for lacrosse, but honestly, I don’t know where I’d be if I wasn’t playing it.




PHOTO COURTESY OF VIRGINIA TECH ATHLETICS

Jacelyn Lazore competed with the Haudenosaunee Nationals at the 2022 World Lacrosse Women's Championship in Towson, Md.


A KEEPER OF THE GAME

November is Native American Heritage Month. 

For those that play lacrosse, this month should play a crucial role in what it means to play this amazing sport.

And to understand where it came from and how it developed into the game it is today.

Most people understand where and how sports like baseball, basketball, soccer, etc., originated, so how come lacrosse doesn’t get that same acknowledgement?

When I was younger, it was something I never understood. 

Do people not see me?

Do they not understand me?

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized they were never taught the actual history of Native Americans.

As a Native woman, our history is often told from a point of view that is not our own.

Now that I have this platform playing college lacrosse in the ACC at Virginia Tech, I greatly look forward to continuing to educate people about the deep-rooted history of lacrosse and the truth about my Native American ancestry that means so much to me.

In 2016, I was in a documentary called “Keepers of the Game.” It details the parallels between the mental aspect of playing lacrosse as a Native American female.

From that day forward, I knew I had a duty to do so much more with.

I wasn’t just going to play it – I was going to educate.

I was going to grow the game, especially from the women’s side.

I matter.

My Native people matter.

And if I have to keep tallying goals and assists at Virginia Tech to help spread that message, I’ll have much more motivation than winning a lacrosse game.