“When you talk about lacrosse, you talk about the lifeblood of the Six Nations. The game is ingrained into our culture and our system and our lives.” – Chief Oren Lyons, Jr.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Office of Intercultural Affairs will host three events as part of a Native American Conference titled, “Lacrosse: The Creator’s Game.” The conference is focused on the Native American roots of the sport of lacrosse, much of which began centuries ago in upstate New York. The topic of this conference was inspired by the work of Delvina Smith ’09. Smith researched the tale of laurelled Seneca warrior, Agayentah, a story that is entwined with the history of Hobart College. Her work encouraged further discussion on the link between Native American and Hobart and William Smith Colleges history.
The first event of the conference was an exhibition lacrosse game between the Iroquois National Team and Hobart Statesmen held on Friday, Oct. 23 on McCooey Field, recalling the shared history between the two communities, which used to play lacrosse on the Quad.
The game opened with a traditional peace blessing offered by film director and artist Peter Jemison, a representative from the Seneca Nation of Indians. During half-time there was a dance performance by Ganondagan’s Spirit Dancers. This urban Native American dance group was formed as a way to teach youth about their culture and traditions. They have travelled across the United States to perform Iroquois social dances.
On Thursday, Oct. 29, there will be a screening of the film “Sacred Sport,” presented by filmmaker Jordan Kligerman at 7 p.m. in the Geneva Room. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Kligerman took his passion for film and sports with him to NFL Films. From 1997 through 2003, he worked with NFL Films to produce six Super Bowls and two Pro-Bowls along with a great deal of programming such as “Under the Helmet” on the Fox Network, “Inside the NFL” on HBO and “NFL Films Presents” on ESPN. In 2004 Kligerman enrolled in the Media Arts MFA program at the City College of New York. His thesis, “Pick of the Litter,” about the dumpster diving Freegan movement, won the Public Media grant.
The film also focuses on the key element of lacrosse – the stick – as well as the artistry of Onondaga Nation stickmaker, Alf Jacques (pictured left), who, following the film, will give a presentation on the making of the lacrosse stick, a traditional, year-long process he learned from his father.
“The experience of lacrosse players and students will be enriched knowing that there is a history and tradition behind the sport and that the people who started it are nearby,” says Alejandra Molina, director of Intercultural Affairs at HWS.
The conference will wrap up with a “Women in Lacrosse” roundtable discussion on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Seneca Room. The discussion will be led by William Smith Lacrosse Coach Pat Genovese; Sandy Jemison, girls lacrosse coach and former member of the all-Iroquois women’s team; and Tia Smith, Haudenosaunee International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Association Delegate, who will share their personal journeys and the struggles they encountered in pursuing participation in organized lacrosse.
The Hobart and William Smith campus is surrounded by Native American land, culture and tradition. For this reason, the discussion of Native American history will not end with the conference. A Native American Student Association (NASA) was recently approved on campus and will continue the discussion of Native American topics at HWS.