Lacrosse women get a chance to shine

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE

Mia Mar­tin has a deep re­spect for her her­itage.

She also loves box lacrosse and thinks “girls should be able to do any­thing boys do.”

For a long time, though, those two things were at odds in Hau­dosaunee cul­ture.

Among some Iro­quois, they still are.

That’s why this week is mean­ing­ful — for Mar­tin, for her team­mates, for her com­peti­tors.

The 14-year-old de­fender from Six Na­tions is play­ing for Team On­tario in the North Amer­i­can Indige­nous Games — which, for the first time in their 25-year his­tory, in­clude women’s box lacrosse.

The Games start Sun­day and con­tinue un­til July 23 in Toronto, Hamil­ton and venues across the GTHA.

“I hope it gets big­ger, just like boys’ lacrosse,” Mar­tin said. “I’m re­ally ex­cited.”

In some places, and Six Na­tions is an ex­am­ple, Hau­denosaunee women have played or­ga­nized box lacrosse for well over a decade. But be­cause of the sport’s his­tory, that’s not univer­sal. Here’s why. In Hau­denosaunee cul­ture, women were tra­di­tion­ally for­bid­den from play­ing lacrosse be­cause of its vi­o­lent, some­times deadly, na­ture. As life-bear­ers and nur­tur­ers, “they’re sa­cred,” said Dawn Mar­tin-Hill, chair in Indige­nous stud­ies at McMaster Univer­sity, “and no one would be able to with­stand or stomach their sis­ter or their mother — some­body they cared deeply about — be­ing hurt in a game. That would be, his­tor­i­cally, cause for war.”

Over time, how­ever, the sport has be­come mod­ern­ized through the adop­tion of metal sticks, for in­stance, and teams rather than clans. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s played out­side of the tra­di­tional con­text, which is one ar­gu­ment for women to be in­cluded.

An­other is that the ben­e­fits of al­low­ing women to com­pete — ev­ery­thing from the pro­mo­tion of health to the devel­op­ment of self­es­teem — out­weigh the harms.

“To me, be­cause of the day and age we’re liv­ing in and what our young girls are go­ing through, we have to ad­just and evolve and chance,” said Mar­tin-Hill, who was among those who fought for women to play at Six Na­tions in the 1990s.

While box lacrosse is now pop­u­lar on the re­serve, in some places, in­clud­ing the Onondaga Na­tion in up­state New York, women are still banned from the sport.

Pat Pem­ble­ton, the Team On­tario coach, said he’s hon­oured to be be­hind the bench for this his­toric com­pe­ti­tion. Mar­tin and her team­mates are de­ter­mined, tal­ented and love the sport and in­clud-

ing them is the right move.

“It’s im­por­tant that the women are fi­nally be­ing rec­og­nized and be­ing able to play the game,” he said.

“It’s some­thing that’s new to a lot of these girls, be­cause it wasn’t ac­cepted be­fore. It was just the men play­ing.”

Around a quar­ter of Pem­ble­ton’s ros­ter is from Six Na­tions or the Hamil­ton area, which means they won’t have to travel far to com­pete.

In­clud­ing box lacrosse, which is be­ing played at Harry How­ell Arena and Iro­quois Lacrosse Arena be­tween Mon­day and Fri­day, five of the Games’ 14 sports are be­ing hosted lo­cally.

Soft­ball takes place at Turner Park, 3-D archery at the Hamil­ton Angling and Hunt­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, pad­dling at the Wel­land In­ter­na­tional Flat­wa­ter Cen­tre and soc­cer at Ron Joyce Sta­dium.

More than 5,000 Indige­nous ath­letes be­tween the ages of 13 and 18

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.