To the Editor:
As a traditional Native lacrosse player and coach who follows the ancient traditions of the Haudenosaunee (or as your history books teach, "the Iroquois") I have been stirred to re-educate the public, if possible, about this sacred game.
Americans seem to feel that violence, savagery and brutality are somehow "endemic" to the game of lacrosse. I have spent 35 years of my life totally engulfed in the game, not only as a participant, but also as a keeper of this sacred tradition.
I am a traditional man, my bloodline is of the Mohawk Nation, Wolf Clan. I reside with my wife and four children, two of whom are male and also lacrosse players, on the Onondaga Nation - the spiritual center of the Iroquois Confederacy.
I find myself disturbed by recent statements about the Duke University lacrosse scandal, which imply that violence and brutality are naturally characteristic to the game of lacrosse.
First of all, as we are taught from the moment we are able to hold the stick and comprehend the game, the game itself is of divine origin, not human invention, handed down from the Creator to his male children for their benefit and his enjoyment - for indeed children are the Creators' favorite part of all creation.
The power of the game is sacred, as it demands the purity of mind, body and spirit. The lack of any of these three components, we believe, weakens the man and presents the opportunity for failure.
Lacrosse is "the Creators game" and we truly believe that he knows every player's mind and disposition. Therefore, lacrosse players are bound to play with the utmost respect for themselves and their opponents, mindful to avoid anger, vanity and brutality, and paying respectful homage to the winners, as the outcome is the Creator's will.
The People of the Longhouse have named this game Deyhontsigwahes (Dey-hoon-chee-gwa-ehs) "they bump hips." This is a translation of an Onondaga word describing the action so prominent in the game.
The passion that encompasses and defines the male spirit is inherent and indivisible to the game, as the creator had originally intended, but without the disciplines of dignity and honor, violence is what you end up with; disgracing your nation, people and teachers.
This is what I have been taught, and will be teaching, my 10-year-old son and his teammates at the onset of practice this week. The wisdom is ancient, the teachings are not.
I find myself burdened by the historical writings that have portrayed this sacred game as the "little brother of war" and describe it using words like "savage, violent and brutal," when the original intent was, and very much still is (when correctly taught), a game that is designed to teach the appropriate conduct of men.
The Duke University lacrosse team's problems do not stem from a "violent Native game." Their problems arise from a blatant disregard for discipline, coupled with the abuse of alcohol and lack of moral fortitude while representing a truly honorable game.
As all things matter, the unfortunate incident at Duke University can and should be looked at as an indication of how we as players, coaches and institutions represent this game.
As a keeper of this sacred tradition, it is my sincere hope that we can begin to re-educate those who may not have been exposed to, or understand, the wisdom and morality required to represent a true mans' game.