In my earlier post on the messaging tactics of the CLA, I had pointed out how the messaging of the 150th anniversary of the CLA appears to be constructed in such a way as to minimize the Indigenous involvement with the sport while maximizing the subsequent contribution made by the Anglo establishment in Montreal in the mid-19th century. This minimizing/maximizing process is part and parcel of what we now term ‘cultural appropriation’ and gives a rather negative connotation to the Indigenous development of the game throughout the ages and in the eyes of the modern public.
In the CLA press release from May 1st, 2017, Canada 150 Fund Provides Financial Support To 150th Annivesary of Lacrosse Event there is this hopeful passage in the text: “A traditional medicine game played by First Nations for thousands of years, lacrosse was adapted into a modern sport with the formalization of the rules back in the 1860’s. This version became the norm when the National Lacrosse Association, the first sport governing body in North America, was established in 1867.” (Italics are mine)
This statement is a welcome change to the previous messaging and, in part, gives acknowledgement to that Indigenous relationship with lacrosse. Good job CLA! (Except for the spelling mistake in your press release headline *wink*)
Why is such a small change in the narrative worthy of note?
Lacrosse, as most knowledgeable lacrosse folks know, is an inherently Indigenous sport. There is no way around this and it will always be this way. However, people who are not familiar with the sport or are new to the game might not realize the Indigenous roots of the sport or the history of Indigenous participation in the modern game. This can be uncomfortably problematic in several ways.
Given the recent focus on some of the historical social interactions between the state and Indigenous people, one of the key complaints of that interaction was the odious concept of assimilation. Whether by means of force through the suppression of rights or residential schools, or by more sublime means such as racist policies and cultural appropriation, the assimilationist perspective is anathema now, and rapidly becoming a subject for legal challenges. As a nation, we are done with assimilationist policies.
The other perspective is that by ignoring, downplaying or minimizing the Indigenous character of lacrosse, the view of the sport itself is diminished in the world, more so among those that know better and question the underpinning motives of those minimizing forces. Are there still pockets of Canadian society in which the assimilationist still carries the day? Perhaps there is, but let’s not allow it in lacrosse.
Thanks for listening CLA!