Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse
Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse
In the beginning, there was lacrosse. The Creator’s Game, they called it. A game of athleticism and skill. And, a game of endurance, where games lasted two or three days, with time-outs only for darkness.
“A millennium after inventing the game, the Iroquois are lacrosse’s new super power”. So says Evin Demiril writing in U.S. News. The Iroquois Nationals, representing the Iroquois Nation, played in the World Lacrosse Championships, beat Australia for the bronze and came within one goal of winning a match with Canada, who eventually beat the U.S. for first place. Believe it or not, the performance wasn’t the whole story. The buzz was all around the stick. A sports commentator railed against the wooden sticks saying they shouldn’t be legal in international competition. Oh, boy. What a firestorm. Derek Miller tweeted: “wooden sticks should always be in the game. It’s a part of divine instruction.”
Players see the wooden stick as a treasured piece of Iroquoian culture. An extension of themselves, say some. Ever hear of a hockey player talk about his stick that way?
The stick’s the thing. There’s a reverence for it. Stick making tends to run in the family. Dynastic, almost. Mark Mitchell, a player of formidable talent in his day, is the latest in a long line of Mohawk stick makers that included his great, great grandfather, Matthew White, the late Matthew Etienne of Kanesatake and Wally Roundpoint, whose family began making sticks in the l930s under the name of Mohawk Lacrosse Manufacturing Company, and who taught him how to make high quality sticks. Mark learned the patience of waiting for the right time to harvest the hickory – in the fall when the sap has dried, and the skill of steaming and bending the sticks and lastly, the dexterity in stringing the stick. This craftsmanship and pursuit of perfection became the defining marks of the family business that he started in 1996 with his wife, Kariwate. The business, located on Cornwall Island, just down the road from the Turtle Dome, Akwesasne’s box lacrosse arena, is thriving.
Today, Mohawk Lacrosse is one of the leading makers of wooden sticks for box lacrosse and ships sticks all over the world. And, they get plenty of visitors. “We’ve had busloads of people from China come through here,” Mark says. Sometimes, the visitors are players who want a hand-made stick. Still others come to see the art in it.
It’s art and tradition and culture and gamesmanship and business, manifested in a beautiful stick created in a time-honoured manner from an Akwesasne hickory.
Go Iroquois Nationals. And go Mohawk Lacrosse.
Photo by Percy Abrams of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse