Reading about the Creator’s game

The Warriors is a children’s novel by Abenaki author and storyteller Joseph Bruchac. In this contemporary story, Jake Forrest, a 12-year-old Iroquois boy, tries to balance his reservation upbringing in an urban setting.

The story begins with Jake playing his favourite sport, lacrosse, at his home community’s arena. Jake enjoys this team sport and has learned to appreciate the cultural teachings about lacrosse provided by his older relatives. Jake knows that the spiritual connection to the game is as important today as it was in the past.

Unfortunately, Jake’s world changes when his mother takes a new job in Washington. As a single parent, her law career has improved, but it takes her and Jake to a condo in Maryland. Jake has serious misgivings about moving and leaving friends, family and lacrosse behind.

Enrolled in a private boys’ school, Jake learns that the school has a winning lacrosse team. Due to an increased workload, Jake’s mother tells Jake that he must board at the school and so Jake’s life takes another turn. He rooms with two foreign-born students from different religious and cultural backgrounds.

Jake is continually challenged in the school and must face a teacher’s bias against Indians and some of his teammates calling him “chief.” Jake tries to fit in this new environment and turns to the stories of his uncle and grandfather for reassurance.

His identity and values as an Iroquois person are contrasted with the values of the privileged students who attend the school. But lacrosse is the one thing that connects them and when tragedy strikes the lacrosse coach, Jake draws on the strength and teachings of his culture.

The true meaning of lacrosse is presented in a culturally-appropriate situation and Jake finds the courage to take action. Bruchac has produced a well-balanced story that is fast-paced and successfully weaves Iroquoian cultural content into the storyline. Readers from a variety of backgrounds can identify with teenage issues and enjoy a great sports story at the same time.

Knowledgeable readers can find interesting lacrosse and Six Nations Iroquois cultural references throughout this realistic fiction novel. Because the book’s publisher is an American company, the story refers to Jake’s identity as Iroquois, creating an obvious glitch in this otherwise engaging novel. Ideal for students in grades 4 to 6.

Lacrosse: The Ancient Game is a 95-page coffee-table style book written by Jim Calder, Ron Fletcher, and Delmor Jacobs with illustrations by David Craig and Arnold Jacobs.

The book is organized into three sections, with the first section explaining the historical and cultural teachings of the game by respected Cayuga Faithkeeper Delmor Jacobs from Six Nations of the Grand River. This first section explains the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Creation story, the Good and the Evil Twins, the False Faces and the Thunder Beings, the Game between the Birds and the Animals, the Great Peace and Handsome Lake. Additional sidebars of information include the significance of wampum, the clans, Four Warriors Play a Game and Orenda. Throughout this first section of the book there are several full-page colour illustrations by renowned artist Arnold Jacobs.

The remaining sections detail the history and development of the game of lacrosse in North America. The final section, called “the Stickmaker.” recounts a story about a man who creates lacrosse sticks and his relationship with the lacrosse player.

Throughout the book there are archival photographs and colour illustrations by artists such as George Catlin and Seth Eastman. Unfortunately, placement of these historical art pieces do not correspond to the book’s content. Nevertheless the overwhelming value of this book can be found in the first 40 pages. Those interested in learning more about the game of lacrosse will find this essential reading.

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