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We Call It 'The Stick'

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Ball-play of the Choctaw--Ball Up by George Catlin

So you're sitting there, watching the hit MTV series Teen Wolf, and suddenly you're struck with the most pressing question. "Where exactly did lacrosse come from?" you wonder, momentarily distracted from the cornucopia of drama and angst associated with juvenile lycanthropes. Well here you are now, your question about to be answered. And for those of you who have no idea what lacrosse even is, well we might just answer that too.

Lacrosse has its origins with the Native Americans of the Algonquin tribe, though there are many tribes that played similar sports and so an exact origin is hard to pin down. Early forms of the sport were played with balls of wood (eventually deerskin), goals of natural origin (often trees), and open fields that could be as large as a few miles (suddenly football stadiums seems quite small). The first written historical account came in the 1630s when a French missionary, Jean de Br├ębeuf, witnessed the game being played by members of the Huron tribe. Jean is the one who actually labeled the game lacrosse, from 'la crosse' in French which means 'the stick'.

Yes, the game is literally just called 'the stick', based on the fact that the game is played with sticks with nets on the end, used to move the ball about the field (hands are not permitted to touch the ball, like in soccer). Lacrosse (or in actuality, the variety of names the sport had among individual native tribes, as none of them were referring to it by the name the white Frenchmen came up with) actually played an important role in the lives of these tribes, as a sport that trained young men for battle, as well as recreation, religious reasons, and even gambling (much like the role professional sports play in American society today).

Popularity amongst other people began in the 1800s in Canada after a demonstration by the Caughnawaga Indians in Montreal, and lacrosse eventually became an Olympic sport in 1904. The sport continues to spread and grow in popularity today. A sport, originating with the natives of the land, labeled forever with a name from the first white guy to write about it, and now seen more often on MTV than actual musical videos. So why not check out any of the numerous books we have in the library system to learn more about this American tradition that goes back even before our Thanksgiving favorites, the Plymouth Pilgrims?

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