It certainly is peculiar that Lacrosse, invented by Native Americans, is one of the three winter sports at British girls’ schools. My daughter, brought up in the UK, hated it; never very athletic—she has many other talents—she went out into freezing cold with her cleats and her Lacrosse stick, and was rarely chosen for a team. I have no idea how lacrosse reached inclusion in the girls school syllabus, but I suppose after five hundred years it had got around.
|Coctaw Ball Player by George Catlin|
Lacrosse was part of the native culture as a sacred contest. To the French Canadian trappers who mixed with the Iroquois, apparent inventors of the game, the lacrosse stick looked like a bishops’ crozier-la crosse. The game eventually became a way of preparing young warriors for battle, and subsequently a way of deciding inter-tribal conflicts. The netted sticks were about three feet long and the balls were stuffed deer hide. Believe it or not, hundreds could be playing at once and the goals could be miles apart—a sort of hockey-style free-for-all. Although the Iroquois were originally from upstate NY and Ontario, some did eventually relocate in the early 1800s to Indian Territory/Oklahoma, and to Kansas.
The Iroquois Nationals, the native lacrosse team, are still going strong, and back in 2010 they were headed to the UK to compete. In May, 2010, I was also headed to the UK: I wanted to see my friends; whether or not they wanted to see me was another matter. Maybe all those tears shed at my departure were tears of joy; I have no idea. But I had another reason for this return. Unless I go back into the UK every two years, I lose my right to residency or, as the Immigration officials put it, “leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom.” So there I was in the queue for Immigration, two passports at the ready: one passport was my current one, the other--outdated--had the magic stamp in it which gives me the “right to abode.” I approached the officer when I was called, and explained that I wished to maintain my rights and have the usual stamp of ‘right to abode.’ He looked over the two passports and said, “But Madam, you’re only here for fourteen days. And even if you want that stamp, you were last in the UK in September ’08 so you have gone past the two years.”
There was a moment’s silence while I stood staring at him trying to figure out which one of us had Alzheimer’s. Since there is no song for the months the way there is for the alphabet, to help you get those months in order, I had to spend a bit of time figuring this one out. However, years of experience told me that May came before September so in the end I gently but firmly pointed out to him that I still had more than three months to go. He gave me the stamp.
|Ball Players by George Catlin|
The lacrosse team of the Nation of the Iroquois were not so lucky. Headed to the UK for a competition in Manchester, the UK did not recognize their hand-written documents, and also sought assurance from the USA that the Nationals will be re-admitted into the US airports without US passports…since the Reservations obviously do not have airports of their own. It raised an interesting question. The map of the USA would look something akin to Swiss cheese if the Indian reservations were pulled out of it, as separate nations. Tellingly, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who was all in favor of the Iroquois traveling on their handwritten tribal passports, said, “It’s a matter of tribal sovereignty and respecting the rights of the Native American population of this country.”
‘Of this country?’ What country is that exactly? The Iroquois Nation or the USA???
Photos of George Catlin’s paintings courtesy of the Smithsonian via Wikipedia, in public domain.