He’s 22 with a crafted hand to the past
Bo Henhawk is only 22, but he’s been crafting traditional — meaning made out of wood — lacrosse sticks for eight years.
Henhawk lives and works on the southwest side of Six Nations, plays for a New York team in the Can-Am lacrosse league and won national junior B championships with the Six Nations Rebels.
He wants to preserve the historic and spiritual links between the Earth and The Creator’s Game (lacrosse) through his sticks made from shag-bark hickory trees, found in and around Six Nations.
“I started because very few people were making them any more and I couldn’t find ones that I liked,” says Henhawk, who gets help in his stick-construction business from his father, Darryl, and well-known lacrosse player Cam Bomberry.
Lacrosse has been getting a lot of attention with the North American Indigenous Games, which conclude Saturday, staging most of its matches at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena and the Gaylord Powless Arena, both on Six Nations.
Since the mid-1970s, plastic sticks with alloy shafts have been making major inroads in the game, to the point that the majority of players now use them and some leagues no longer allow wood sticks.
Injuries are often cited as one reason but Henhawk says he’s suffered only bruises from wood sticks while he’s incurred cuts playing against players with plastic sticks.
“I don’t like the way plastic sticks have taken over everything,” he says.
“They’re trying to ban wood from the game, you hear that rumour all the time.
“That’s going to take away from the game.”
Henhawk’s sticks, used mostly by minor lacrosse players, cost $50 or $60 for mini sticks, all the way up to $225 for “my sticks. The ones that I would use.” There’s strong demand for them.
Traditionally, the webbing in the head of the stick was made from the hide of deer killed by the stick maker himself, while the guard — the piece connecting the curve of the head to the shaft — was often made from the intestines of small animals. But now, Henhawk buys cowhide in bulk from a Hamilton store.
He’d like to see more lacrosse players using wood sticks all the time.
“Not just Natives, everybody,” he says. “It’s what the Creator gave us to play with. It’s the most natural thing we use, and it’s been around as long as the game has been played.”
To see Spectator photographer Barry Gray’s video essay on Henhawk’s wooden sticks, go to the spec.com.
Sticks in various stages of construction hang from Henhawk’s workshop ceiling.
Bo Henhawk, 22, makes traditional wooden lacrosse sticks.
A finished stick, signed by Bo.