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Lacrosse in Kahnawake: a community built around the sport

A report from Gabrielle Pablo Y Sophie-Claude Miller

The heat wave does not prevent fans from coming to cheer for the teams.

It is a question of kinship; Kahnawake is also a tight-knit community, so you play to win, but losing is not a disaster.

Lacrosse is a traditional game for the Mohawks. Historically, lacrosse was used to train young warriors and avoid conflict.

It also allowed the Mohawks to rally; after the festivities large banquets were organized.

a family affair

For the Kahnawake Mohawks, lacrosse has a family character and is, even today, an opportunity to reconnect.

Kwetiio Goodleaf Cree takes a break between two periods to refresh his daughters with a fan and to redesign one of them.

“My husband and son play for the Indians, but my nephews are on the other team,” she says. So I take for both. “

Lacrosse in Kahnawake: a community built around the sport
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Kwetiio Goodleaf Cree and his two daughters attend the lacrosse game between the Kahnawake Mohawks and the Caughnawaga Indians.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sophie-Claude Miller

“There is no rivalry. They all know each other and they all have family on both teams ”, he adds.

Like many viewers, Kwetiio Goodleaf Cree’s life takes shape around lacrosse. “We spend our afternoons here. In my family, lacrosse is our whole life. “

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Featured mural at the Kahnawake Sports Complex.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sophie-Claude Miller

In the audience, Jamie Kirby encourages his son to wear the colors of the Kahnawake Mohawks.

“My son is going to play tonight, I am very happy. He just returned from the University of Albany in New York. Play lacrosse throughout North America. It’s really good, ”he says.

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Jamie Kirby, himself a former lacrosse player, was at the Kahnawake Sports Complex to cheer on his son, Cougar, who took over the bat.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sophie-Claude Miller

Jamie Kirby himself played when he was younger. “This sport means a lot to me. When I play or when I watch it makes me feel good. “

Now that the game is over, Jamie’s son, Cougar Shakaienkwarathon Kirby, comes out of the locker room. Despite the hellish heat inside the sports hall, he would not have missed the opportunity to grab his cane.

“I started when I was about 5 years old, but my dad says that at nine months he was already playing with a ball in my crib,” he recalls. It really is a sport that I grew up with. “

The interlaced cut smiles at the camera.  We can see inside the Kahnawake sports complex behind them.
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Cougar Shakaienkwarathon Kirby and his fiancee, Mariah Konwaseti McComber carrying their son.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sophie-Claude Miller

His fiancee, Mariah, is pregnant. “We are expecting a girl,” he says with a smile.

Lacrosse has traditionally been an exclusively male sport. Cougar, however, is not against the idea that his daughter will ever be able to play. “If she really wants to play, we are sure to cheer her on.”

The game of life

Lacrosse is more than a game for Eric Kanatakeniate McComber, it is a metaphor for real life, argues the man we nicknamed “Dirt.”

Prepare for life. You can’t always have what you want, you have to earn it, ”Dirt thinks.

The 62-year-old started playing at the age of 7 and retired from competitive play at 39. He is now the coach and owner of the Caughnawaga Indians team.

« You win, you lose and you take hits, you have to toughen up. Like in real life, if you break the laws there are penalties, it teaches you the life of lacrosse and builds friendships. »

A quote from

Eric Kanatakeniate “Dirt” McComber

The owner-coach also mentions that lacrosse is a team game, the group is more important than the individual. It reflects the perspective of the natives, he adds.

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Eric Kanatakeniate McComber, who prefers to be called by his nickname, “Dirt,” is the owner and coach of a lacrosse team, the Caughnawaga Indians.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sophie-Claude Miller

Kanatakeniate doesn’t place such importance on trophies. What matters is the players and the collective effort to win these trophies.

Lacrosse is a gift from his father to Kanatakeniate and the sport has allowed him to meet many people across the country. For him it is a great motivation and a pleasure to teach this ancient sport to the little ones.

everyone has their place

The people we met are unanimous that lacrosse is a medicine unto itself for Aboriginal people. To play it, you must be in good shape and live an exemplary lifestyle.

In this game, all members of the community find their role. This is also the case for Greg, the Kahnawake Mohakws team manager. He plays sometimes, but prefers his leadership role.

“My strength is not playing, I have never been a good player and I will never be a good player. But my skills are used elsewhere, they allow the team to organize. Says Greg Horn.

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Tekanerahteneken Greg Horn, lacrosse team manager, Kahnawake Mohawks.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sophie-Claude Miller

Greg also mentions that this game, when taken seriously, can open a lot of doors for young people. Lacrosse can give them access to scholarships offered by prestigious universities.

About that, McGill University Now Has Scholarships Available for lacrosse players of Aboriginal descent.

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