Every little thing that exists today or that ever will exist is accompanied with an individual and original history. Everything has an origin story; somewhere they began that signifies their meaning and importance today. In these contemporary times, our lives are a lot more complicated and complex than the simpler times of hundreds of years ago. This newfound complexity comes with a large public misunderstanding about the true origin of many things. For instance, the sport of Lacrosse is a perfect example.
I picked up girls Lacrosse as a sophomore in high school and I have been playing it ever since. I went to a high school that was made up of predominantly African American students and when I began carrying my stick around school I always got the same reactions from either my friends or students I didn't even know. The encounters consistently began with the following remark, “Oh you play lacrosse? But wait, you're black. Isn't that a ‘white people’ sport?” Not only is this beyond ignorant, but this is also extremely false. Lacrosse isn't as popular as other sports so it's sort of understandable why so many people are confused of its origin.
The sport of lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, with origins dating back as far as 1100 AD in Mesoamerica. Lacrosse, also known as “the fastest sport on two feet,” was played all throughout America and Canada by Native American Indians of various cultures. The game was usually played between two tribes or villages, but it wasn't uncommon for more than two groups to take part in the game. Each team would consist of hundreds (if not thousands) of participants. The tribes rarely played the game to actually have fun. They played to settle disputes; in other words, lacrosse was their form of war. They even played to train young men for war. They used the game as a way of gambling, and sometimes they would even gamble their wives and children.
Lacrosse games would literally last for days, stopping at sunset and continuing the next day at sunrise. The Native Americans didn't use a set field to play the game; they simply used whatever type of large plane was available to them. In our modern day version, lacrosse is played on a field similar to that of a football field and there is a goal at each end of the field. Whereas when the Indians played it, the goals would often be 15 miles apart. A large tree or rock was often designated as the goals for most tribes.
The objective of the game was to pass the ball with your stick to a teammate who is on your team and hit the designated goal, or have it pass through the goal post. In the way that Native Americans played it, the game had only one rule: they were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands. There were no out-of-bounds or anything of the sort, so men would often kill to possess the ball. Dodging their opponent was a cowardly move, although they wore no protective gear whatsoever. It was seen as a sign of bravery if they ran fearlessly right into their opponent. The ability to pass and catch the ball was viewed as a complex skill, because the sticks were very different at the time. The ball was made out of wood and deerskin stuffed with hair, baked clay, or sometimes they just used a stone instead.