The Six Nations U13 Girls Field Lacrosse team had a regular season of eight wins, six losses and one tie.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t have been expected that they would go into provincials and come out undefeated.
But they did.
Coach Shelby Johnson-Martin said that their semi-final game went into overtime, yet they came out on top 4-3. As for the following Championship, the girls then went on to wallop Oshawa 9-2, which allowed them to bring home the ‘C’ Field Championship banner.
And the team did something else that was unexpected.
Clad in their purple and white uniforms, the colours of wampum, each of the girls also donned red hand prints over their mouths as a statement in support of and solidarity with the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) movement.
Johnson-Martin said that one of the girls on the team was already a part of MMIW movement.
“The reason behind the decision was that we seen it in the media, with Rosalie Fish and what she did,” said Johnson-Martin. “But one of the girls on my team, Alexa Joseph, is the grand-daughter of Shelley Joseph who was murdered.”
Johnson-Martin then asked Joseph’s family if the team and herself could wear the red hand prints as a team statement rather than Joseph wearing it alone, and they agreed.
Currently, there are no statistics telling of how many of the more than 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada were mothers, but oftentimes news reports offer glimpses of nameless descendants whose stories usually go untold, or unfinished.
But with the MMIW movement growing, moments of reclamation and education performed by descendants like this can only be expected and embraced.
During their provincial run, the team also made an offering of tobacco as a way to ceremonially pay homage to the women they chose to play for.
“They went to the middle of the field as a team and stood in a circle, they said their prayer and put down the tobacco,” said Johnson-Martin. “[Not only that], even a part of our cheer was for our ancestors and the missing and murdered. They were all with us on that field.”
The team used the statement as a moment to vocally educate those around them as well, rather than just as an effort to be bold. Martin said that many youth and individuals came and asked the team questions about the face paint.
“I told the girls that they needed to be kind and tell people why they wore it because people need to be educated,” she said. “Some people said they thought we were doing it ‘just because, but there was a bigger purpose.’”
As the team took their winning photo, Johnson-Martin also noted that the photo will appear in the annual Ontario Lacrosse Magazine and be viewed by people across the province, which is hoped to create even more open discussion and dialogue.
“Those pictures will always be there and people will see them,” she said.