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Indigenous teens hope return of lacrosse to Canada Games will inspire future generations

A woman smiling

It was a warm, muggy afternoon on Thursday when Kenny Porter picked up his lacrosse stick and headed to the backyard.

The 16-year-old from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario walked toward his make-shift practice area before firing shots toward a net and a towering backboard with a Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag painted onto it.

“I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me being the only Six Nations boy on the team,” he said. “I just want to represent our town pretty good.”

In two weeks, Porter will be playing box lacrosse for Team Ontario at the Canada Games, where he’ll face off against other provincial teams.

The games kick off Saturday in the Niagara region, running until Aug. 21. Around 5,000 athletes and coaches will be in the area, competing in 18 different sports. 

This year will be the first time lacrosse, the traditional Indigenous sport, has been played at the Canada Games since 1985.

It will also be the first year in the competition’s 55-year history women have been able to play the sport.

Jordan Osborne, a 17-year-old from Mistawasis Nêhiyawak Treaty 6, is playing for Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Games. She said she’s excited to play with other women. (Don Somers/CBC)

It’s unclear when exactly lacrosse started, but the sport has a long history, with the National Lacrosse Association of Canada taking form in the 1860s.

“This is my first time playing on a women’s team. I grew up playing with men and boys,” said Jordan Osborne, a 17-year-old from Mistawasis Nêhiyawak Treaty 6, playing for Team Saskatchewan.

“I never would have thought I’d be here today.”

To Porter and Osborne, lacrosse is more than just a sport — it’s part of their culture.

“It’s called The Medicine Game,” Porter said.

“Normally we use wooden sticks to play, it helps people heal and it makes you feel better when you watch … All of my problems and worries float away when I’m out there on the floor.”

Indigenous teens hope return of lacrosse to Canada Games

Women’s box lacrosse teams compete at Canada Games for the first time

Box lacrosse teams will once again compete at the Canada Games after a 37-year hiatus. This year marks the first time that women’s box lacrosse teams will compete.

Kevin Sandy, the co-chair of the Indigenous Partnership Council with the Canada Games, says he’s happy to see the sport back at the competition.

“It’s our responsibility to keep it alive and make sure we’re still doing and following our ways and tradition,” said Sandy, who is from Cayuga Nation with the Wolf Clan in Six Nations.

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