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3rd Woodenstick Festival a Success

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Thank you to all the wonderful people who attended the Deyhontsigwa’ehs Lacrosse Weekend, which was comprised of the Haudenosaunee Wooden Stick Lacrosse Festival and Randy Hall Memorial Masters Tournament at Onondaga Lake Park. Attendees to the festival were treated to traditional Native American Arts & Crafts , traditional wooden lacrosse sticks, and some exhilarating master’s level lacrosse along with plenty of time and space for people to shoot around and play lacrosse together.

Festival attendees were excited to visit with world-renowned wooden stick makers like Alf Jacques (Onondaga Nation), and Tionatakwente Travis Gabriel (Mohawk Nation) were on hand. Alf Jacques showed off his collection of Lacrosse sticks from all over Turtle Island, especially from the Indigenous Peoples of North and Central Americas. He demonstrated the wide varieties of sticks and styles of play for the game of Lacrosse as well as showing off some of his own handiwork. Three festival goers were excited to pick up their sticks from Alf Jacques after having waited several years. Tionatakwente Travis Gabriel, another highly sought after stick maker, brought some of his sticks to sell and promises next year to bring wooden and leather balls, as well as many attendees, were asking him about these items.

Thanksgiving Address

Onondaga LakeTadodaho Sid Hill of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy opened #laxweekend18 with the Thanksgiving Address or the Words that Come Before All Else. The Address thanked the Creator, the earth, and all the animals for their many gifts and outlined humanities responsibilities to care for the animals and the earth. Tadodaho Sid Hill spoke of the importance of Onondaga Lake as a sacred site of the Onondagans and for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and pointed out the tragedy of the lake’s polluted status. The polluted nature of the lake heightens the importance of the Creator’s Game (Lacrosse) being played with wooden sticks and a leather ball here at the lake.

Master’s Tournament

Onondaga Old Sticks and Mohawk Rez dogsThe Masters Wooden Stick Tournament served as a reminder that the world is sick and in need of healing. Players, referees, and attendees shared their excitement that the Creator’s Game (Lacrosse) was being played traditionally at such a prominent location. The wooden stick tournament while not a medicine game reminded all those who attended the earth and humanity’s need for medicine and healing. Three teams participated in the inaugural Randy Hall Memorial Tournament, the Onondaga Old Sticks, The Kanehsatà:ke Rez Dogs, and the Buffalo/ Cattaraugus Old Sticks. The games were played with a good mind and close intense competition. It was exciting to see players using multiple different types of wooden sticks from a wide variety of eras. In a fitting tribute to Randy Hall the Onondaga Old Sticks placed Randy’s old jersey on a chair throughout the games and spoke about how they could tell that Randy’s Spirit was with them throughout the games. Wooden stick maker Travis Gabriel, lead the Rez Dogz to second place, and Buffalo/Cattaraugus team played very well and came in third place.  Beautiful First-place trophy and Second and Third place plaques were designed by Tuscarora Woodworks.  The game leather ball was also awarded to the Onondaga Masters team.


Johnson Jimerson
Johnson Jimerson

Johnson Jimerson (Cattaraugus/Seneca Nation), a defenseman for the 2018 Iroquois Nationals team, spoke about his unique journey to making the team and going to Israel for the FIL World Lacrosse Championship and being on the Bronze medal team. Jimerson spoke about what it means for him to be a traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy man and how the Great Law of Peace has been a guiding force in his life. He remarked that one of the hardest parts of playing international lacrosse is being pressured to play with a plastic stick. A stick which is not traditional and is dead and lacking in spirit. Jimerson noted that the thing about a wooden stick is that it is alive and has a spirit. You are connected to the stick, and the stick is connected to you. You play better with a wooden stick.

Oren Lyons
Oren Lyons

As Faithkeeper Oren Lyons spoke an eagle circled over the lake and the lacrosse field where the Championship game was taking place. Lyons delivered a stirring call to the audience to understand the origins of lacrosse, why it is much more than a game, and how it can bring healing to one’s life. Lyons noted that by playing with wooden sticks and a leather ball the players were honoring the Creator, while also being respectful of Haudenosaunee Confederacy tradition. To paraphrase Lyons, when you play lacrosse with a Wooden Stick you play with all the trees and animals in the world. That’s why you carry it with you. Plastic sticks are dead sticks and don’t have spirit. Lyons went on to connect the how the skills necessary to excel at lacrosse are intimately connected to traditional indigenous ways of knowing in general and Haudenosaunee ways in particular. One example, Lyons utilized was seven-generation thinking. He pointed out that one common aspect of indigenous peoples today is thinking seven generations into the past and seven generations into the future. A generation is not just ten years as some people might think but more like seventy to eighty years, the average span of a person’s life. Lyons called on the audience to think with a long view about the ancestors and the future and he asked: “where are the US and Canadian leaders who thinking seven generations?” Lyons concluded his talk by asking the audience to embrace thinking with the good mind and to understand just how interconnected all life truly is.

Social Dancing

Dancers from the Onondaga Nation, led by Sherri Waterman-Hopper, appeared at the Wooden Stick Festival on both Saturday and Sunday.  Their social dancing was one of the highlights of the Festival.

Thank you

Thank you to our sponsors (Syracuse University, Nike, Gannon’s Ice Cream, and Summit Credit Union) and the many excellent crafters and vendors, especially Potato Skins Express for serving up a delicious variety of potato skins throughout the events. Finally thank you to the broader lacrosse community for talking about the Haudenosaunee Wooden Stick Festival on their sites, blogs, podcasts, and social media.

Next Year

Indigenous Values Initiative

Come out and join us next year at Onondaga Lake for a celebration of Haudenosaunee culture, traditional lacrosse, and traditional lacrosse sticks. We look forward to having even more teams in the tournament, and we are planning on having a lake team (house teams but at the lake) for those who want to play in the tournament but can’t put together a full team. We would love to have traditional indigenous peoples teams, and teams made up of lacrosse players of all backgrounds.

We also hope to have some pick-up scrimmages for players of all ages. Everyone will put their sticks in the middle and then sticks will be sorted into piles, and those will be the teams for some fun lighthearted pick-up game excitement.

Join us September 28-29, 2019 for the Haudenosaunee Woodenstick Festival and Randy Hall Memorial Tournament.