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"> Ryan & Alie Jimerson: Finding Acceptance | USA Lacrosse Magazine

Alie Jimerson and her father, Ryan, sat down to talk about their experiences as Native lacrosse players.

Ryan & Alie Jimerson: Finding Acceptance


This article, as told to Matt Hamilton, 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.

ALIE:  I grew up in a very traditional home. My dad always made sure instilled in me who I was playing for. I was playing for the Creator and where I came from. I started playing when I was 6 or 7 years old, so I always had that in my head. It was a big deal for girls to be playing lacrosse when I was growing up. It was hard for my grandfather to accept it when my mom was playing lacrosse, but as I started playing, he gave his blessing. That meant a lot to me and it was special to me. I always felt pride that I was accepted by him.

RYAN: It was pretty hard for my dad when I first started to see [my wife] Claudia and he knew that she played. He would say ‘She’s not supposed to be playing,’ I understood. In finding out more about her game and the women’s game, I came to the realization that it’s different. It’s amazing what love can do. I love Claudia and that love brought acceptance. Same thing goes when I was a dad and with my girls.

ALIE: Going to school, it amazed me how many people had never met a Native American before. They weren’t trying to be ignorant. They were still like ‘Oh, do you still live in a teepee?’ That stuff still happens. I would get mad about that. But they just didn't know.


"In practice, one time I fell and they were like ‘Oh, are you going to go pray to the Creator?’ I was like dodging and they were like ‘Oh, are you going to do your rain dance again?’"


RYAN: There have been negative experiences even in high school. I wasn’t there at the time but I know her mother was. The kids and parents were saying this on the sideline one game, calling her ‘Pocahontas.’ What else were they calling you, Ali?

ALIE: One of the girls started crying and I heard ‘Oh, here comes the Trail of Tears.’

RYAN: That’s one of the things I’ve always told her and my son is that they’re going to have to play through that. You’re more than likely going to hear it at some point, but you have to be able to play through that and not forget who you're playing for.

ALIE: I never had big problems with teams like that until I went to Albany. I was the only Native American on the team, but I had Lyle and Myles who were there and already broke the barrier of being a Native American and going to a school where there are no Natives. There were a couple games where people would say things to me, but I never really let it get to me.








ALIE: There were a couple times where my friends were just trying to be funny. I was like ‘No that’s not funny and you have to realize that actually offends me a lot.’ In practice, one time I fell and they were like ‘Oh, are you going to go pray to the Creator?’ I was like dodging and they were like ‘Oh, are you going to do your rain dance again?’ Stuff like that. It’s so ignorant. They don’t even relate to my culture. We don’t even do a rain dance. They’re stereotyping me and that’s not even something I do.

RYAN: It’s the same as what’s been on TV in terms of being out West, and the Western Indians. They have their own culture and dance and traditions. Each is different. But they’ve put us all in the same basket acting like we’re all the same. We’re not. We’re different.

ALIE: The comments that were said to me, they weren’t always said to me by my teammates. Some of them came from my coaches. Think of that — coming from your coaches’ perspective — someone that's in charge of you and the team saying things to me. That’s when I felt uncomfortable in that environment.




PHOTO BY HEATHER AINSWORTH

Alie Jimerson, the former Albany and Syracuse player, competed with Team Canada in the 2017 FIL World Cup.


RYAN: We’re not looked at as human beings. The hypocrisy to be running with a stick and disrespecting us. The big word now is savage. In your Constitution, they talk about merciless savages. Yet, you’ll see on a lacrosse account for one of the bigger schools and a guy does a good play and they call him ‘savage.’ Is that a reference to Native Americans? If someone had walked up to me on the field 20 years ago and said that, there would have been a fight.

ALIE: Everyone is acting like this is the first time anyone has ever said something racial to anybody else. I’ve been dealing with this since I was young. I play for the Creator. I carry that with me every single time I play for the stick. When I heard [the comments at the Wings game], I was like ‘What’s the year? 2019? This is being said right now, in a loudspeaker, in an arena, at a game against one of the best players to ever pick up a stick?’

RYAN: I guarantee there are non-Natives out there that don’t like Native Americans, but will like Lyle. They just love him. A long time ago, there were people that didn’t like black people, but they loved Michael Jordan.

ALIE: This game has taken me to so many different places. It’s taken me to Hawaii, London, Germany, all over the U.S. and I’m thankful for that. Playing for the Haudenosaunee for the first time was amazing. It was also a culture shock traveling and meeting people that had never seen Native Americans before. They had the same notions of Native Americans, like we live in teepees. We had to teach them our culture.