Fourth Wooden Sticks Festival aims to educate

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. — Situated right beside the lake, the fourth Wooden Sticks Festival took place at the sports field of the Onondaga Lake Parkway over this past weekend.

The event offered free access to artisans, crafters and more while the event cascaded with education on the history and current game of lacrosse.

Put on by the Indigenous Values Initiative (IVI), the event hosted Sherri Waterman-Hopper and her family and Onondaga Nation singers and dancers performed, as renowned wooden lacrosse stick maker Alf Jacques showcased his collection of sticks and offered presentations, with the Randy Hall Memorial Wooden Sticks Master Tournament taking place in the background and Spirit Twins Lacrosse provided lacrosse clinics throughout the day.

One of the co-ordinators said that her participation in the organization of the event is something that she could “go on for hours” about.

“I can’t believe I’m apart of this,” said Sandy Bigtree, co-organizer of the festival. “My children were born athletes and lacrosse became an integral part of our family.

Bigtree explained that the IVI is comprised of three main individuals that want t focus on educating the public on the Haudneosaunee influence in the development of the USA. She said that “there’s growing interest,” in the event and they held it at the parkway so that non-indigenous visitors could have access to it.

“This is cool because it takes place where the council formed many thousands and thousands of years ago and it reaches peoples hearts, like the Haudenosaunee, and it also reaches the hearts of people coming here to actually feel what’s going on here. It’s very powerful.”

Bigtree also included that the coordinators from the Indigenous Values Initiative negotiated with the Onondaga Nation on terms for the parameters of the Randy Hall Memorial Tournament, which included the use of a leather ball and only wooden sticks.

“They’re playing for the water too.”

Making use of the field when teams finished playing, Kroy Arnold from Sprit Twins Lacrosse and Know the Game podcast took to offering a handful of youth lacrosse skill drills. He said that the opportunity “is just great.”

“We really like to give back to the youth and I think that working with the kids helps them learn a lot and we like to have fun too,” said Arnold. “Giving back to the community is a priority for us and seeing those kids faces smile is just great.”

As the name of the skills development course was inspired by the creation story, Arnold of the Oneida Nation combines box and field drills to maximize skill development.

“We teach these kids the field and box aspects of the game kind of rolled up into one.”

Alf Jacques, renowned wooden lacrosse stick maker, said that he’s “kind of the mainstay-er” at the event as he has been presenting his sticks and his understanding of lacrosse and its origins at the event each year.

“I keep up to date with things and I tech the history and people appreciate it because it’s so rare,” said Jacques. “I don’t make as many sticks as I used to but I keep the tradition alive by showing the sticks and carrying the game on to other people this way.”

He explained that he has Great Lake style sticks, south-eastern style sticks, old style Iroquois sticks that date back to 1890, original plastic sticks and a wide selection of balls. Behind his stick collection was also a homemade stick carving apparatus, to show visitors how the curve of a wooden stick head and handle is refined.

The Onondaga Nation and Title Clan stick maker said that being able to teach is “a wonderful place to be.”

“Lacrosse has been my whole life,” he said. “All of the guys that are playing now, I played against their grand-fathers. So I’m still in the game this way. I’m not playing, not coaching, I retired from coaching, but I’m still giving the game this way. It’s our game,” he said.

Jacques also supplied some the players in the Randy Hall Tournament with his sticks, while some players already had one.

Out of the four teams, Team Ohi:yo placed 1st in the tournament and took home the trophy made by Tuscarora WoodWorks.

The IVI extended a welcome to masters teams in Canada that would like to take part next year.

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