US Lacrosse Adopts Native American Advisory Council

Lyle Thompson, the Albany product that has starred in the MLL and NLL, does his part to spread the game to areas where it is not prevalent.

Following allegations against the Dakota Premier Lacrosse League regarding the expulsion of three Native American youth teams in April, US Lacrosse, while not operating youth leagues, initiated discussions with representatives of the Native American lacrosse community on the issue.

Andrew Lee, who sits on the board of directors for the Tewaaraton Foundation, was one of those individuals. With his background in the sport, graduating from Hamilton College in New York, and as chairman of the board of trustees of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, he was selected as chair of the US Lacrosse Native American Advisory Council, which held its first meeting in September and will reconvene in January at the US Lacrosse Convention in Philadelphia.

“We’re putting together a small group of folks from all walks of life, native and non-native, who have expertise in Native American history or have thought carefully about how to grow the game,” Lee said. “Indian country is big, so we of course want to make a splash, but we’ve got to do it in a responsible way.”

According to Lee, the council’s importance fits into the larger mission of US Lacrosse to reach new populations. Its role is two-fold — grow the game within native communities and spread the knowledge of its roots through educational resources.

“For the game to grow, we’ve got to pay close attention to diversity and inclusion,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know the native roots of lacrosse. I’d love to see lacrosse in general embrace its roots and honor its roots.”

While recent events have been “disheartening,” Lee said, the council will recognize and support Native American communities, analyze challenges related to isolated locations of reservations and rising costs of the sport, and address misconceptions such as mascots with negative stereotypes.

“The minute you introduce stereotypical mascots or names that are based on ethnic or racial category, it’s problematic,” Lee said. “It really has no place in sport and in America. Lacrosse needs to take a hard look at this issue.”

At the same time, the council will celebrate the accomplishments of Native American players like the Thompson brothers, who travel the country introducing the sport in native communities where it’s not prevalent while also emphasizing its origins in more developed areas.

“It’s about growing the game with a population that I think is ready for it,” Lee said. “It’s great for the native communities and great for the game if we’re successful.”

The Vault

Hall of Famer Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation graced the cover of the November/December 2002 issue of Lacrosse Magazine after a 2,000-seat facility was unveiled for box lacrosse, a popular form of the sport in his nation. It was named Tsha’Hon’nonyendakwha, which translates to “where they play games.” 
“It’s a place where sticks are still curled from steamed hickory, where your clan still determines your team, where old teach young the lessons of life through lacrosse,” writes Tom Rock. 

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