The Native American Origins of Lacrosse

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Lacrosse, America’s oldest team sport, dates to 1100 A.D., when it was played by the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois people, in what now is New York and areas in Canada bordering the state.

The early versions of lacrosse matches played by Native American nations included 100 to 1,000 men or more using wooden sticks, sometimes with net baskets or pockets attached, and small, deer hide-wrapped balls. Deer sinew formed nets.  Borderless fields could span miles, and games could last days. 

“Lacrosse was an integral part of Native Americans’ culture,” says Joe Finn, archivist at the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum. “It was played to prepare them for war, and it was also a social event where tribes would get together for trade and sport. It was sometimes used to settle disputes.”



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