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History Of Lax


The game of lacrosse was created by Native Americans, with ancient roots dating back to the 1400's. This original "team sport" has particular historical importance to the Northwest Woodlands Indians of New York State, who long ago integrated lacrosse competition into their tribes' cultural, spiritual, and social life.

Jean de Brebeuf a French missionary, first described lacrosse in a report to his superiors in 1636. Though he had little understanding of the game's rules, de Brebeuf was intrigued by the stick that the Huron Indians were using during the competition. The stick was a similar shape to the "crosier" carried at religious ceremonies by a bishop... thus the name "la crosse" came to be used, which was later changed to "lacrosse" by the English speaking Canadians.

The sport that these early missionaries viewed was extremely intense, violent and fast paced. The lacrosse field was huge, with goals distanced from 500 yards to over several miles apart. At this time the goalposts of the Eastern Woodlands tribes were rocks or trees, and the games were played until one team scored two of three, or three of five goals by hitting the goal with a skin covered ball. It was not uncommon for the game to last for days!

 

These sporting conests were formal challenges between residents of neighbouring villages or tribes, and often included over 100 men on each team. In fact, in 1797 a game was observed by Colonel William Stone, between Mohawk and Seneca Indians, which involved over 1,200 players.

The 19th century artist, George Catlin, had observed and painted depictions of a particularly aggressive Southeast version of Native American lacrosse. He noted that this warlike game, which mimicked the rigors of combat, was nearly as bloody as the real thing. The Southeast Indians aptly called this form of lacrosse, "little brother of war". On occasion, as a civilised alternative to an actual battle, games were played between two tribes to settle their differences.

Catlin marvelled at the elaborate pre game ceremonies which were organised by the village medicine men prior to a big match. He dsecribed seeing two columns of women who were shuffling and chanting asking for the aid of the Great Spirit in deciding the game to their advantage. At the same time, the stick wielding players would work their way aorund the goal, which in case resembled a 20 foot high football goalpost.

During the two or three days preceding the game, spectators arrived at the playing field, each loaded down with possessions - furs, skins, and ornaments - to wager on the games outcome.

Up north, the Mohawk Indians introduced the game to the French Canadians in the 1750's.

History records the use of a lacrosse game as a diversion to enable Ottawa Indians led by Chief Pontiac to overtake the British at Fort Michilimakinac in 1763.

It was not until 1856 with the formation of the Montreal Lacrosse Club that formal rules were adopted with changes to the stick design and definition of number players, field size atc.

In 1867 when the Dominion of Canada was created, lacrosse was declared the national sport and the Canadian National Lacrosse Association was formed. An Iroquois team toured England in the same year and the game gathered international momentum with the establishment of Clubs in Australia (1874), England (1875) and several Clubs in the United States by 1877, when College lacrosse was also started.

Lacrosse was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1904 when Canada won the first Olympic title. The first World Lacrosse Championship was held in Toronto in 1967 and subsequent World Championships have been conducted every four years since the establishments of the International Lacrosse Federation in 1974 when the 2nd World Championship was conducted in Melbourne, Australia.