OHSWEKEN — Allan Downey, author of The Creator’s Game: Lacrosse, Identity, and Indigenous Nationhood, visited the Six Nations community in a meet-and-greet held at the Six Nations Polytechnic in the Banquet Room on Wednesday, May 9.
Downey is of the Dakelh, Nak’azdii Whut’en and is a lacrosse player himself — his visit allowed him to go over some of the information on the history and development of lacrosse found within his book. But he was quick to point out that much of the information came from prominent lacrosse figures from Six Nations, of which he is thankful for.
“I just want to give a heart felt thank you to the entire community here,” said Downey. “This community has been really fantastic to me and I’ll continue to be here and be present in sharing this knowledge and this information and to learn from more people. And I’m really looking forward to being in the community more,” he said.
He explained his sharing of the information within the community as a part of his own responsibility that he undertook in writing the work over ten years ago, using “reciprocity and accountability” as his main virtues as the author.
“That means being able to share the work amongst indigenous youth, especially Haudenosaunee youth,” he said.
Downey also serves as an assistant professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at McGill University and he splits his time throughout the year to work with indigenous youth, indigenous communities and youth organizations.
“I’ve gone across the country sharing the work with indigenous youth and correctional facilities culture centres, high schools and I keep going into Haudenosaunee communities to share it,” he said. “It is the most meaningful thing to me, to be able to share this because it’s the communities story and it’s also the people from this community that helped me put it together. I think it’s important that I’m sharing the work that we were able to compile.”
But his devotion to compile the work and put in the effort to bring it to fruition came from his own connection to the game. Downey explained that he began playing lacrosse when he was 10 years old and later earned a lacrosse scholarship which led him to play at the professional level. Living in Waterloo, it was also easy for him to know that Haudenosaunee communities were where lacrosse thrived.
“I connected to it as an indigenous youth, so I knew growing up that this was an indigenous game. And being able to have that opportunity to play an indigenous game as an indigenous youth living in an urban setting; it really kind of helped me power my identity as an indigenous person.”
Lacrosse also helped him to connect with his home community in Central British Columbia, where he worked with youth as well.
The work in itself is a powerful collection of both history and evolution for both indigenous nations, the sport of lacrosse and Canada. Within it’s bindings are even the explanation as to how lacrosse migrated to the indigenous Nations in B.C., and why indigenous players were once banned from playing they own sport.
Michael Dawson, a professor of history and associate vice-president of St. Thomas University described the work as “provocative, creative and ambitious.”
“It offers a unique window into the history of colonialism, the inner workings of residential schools, the development of indigenous nationalism, the emergence of modern sport in Canada and the gendered dynamics of lacrosse’s political, social, and spiritual importance. I’m a big fan of this book,” wrote Dawson.
The book is available on Amazon in paperback, hardcover and kindle edition.