American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War

American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War

by Thomas Vennum
     
 

To understand the aboriginal roots of lacrosse, one must enter a world of spiritual belief and magic where players sewed inchworms into the innards of lacrosse balls and medicine men gazed at miniature lacrosse sticks to predict future events, where bits of bat wings were twisted into the stick's netting, and where famous players were—and are still—buried

Overview

To understand the aboriginal roots of lacrosse, one must enter a world of spiritual belief and magic where players sewed inchworms into the innards of lacrosse balls and medicine men gazed at miniature lacrosse sticks to predict future events, where bits of bat wings were twisted into the stick's netting, and where famous players were—and are still—buried with their sticks. Here Thomas Vennum brings this world to life.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Lacrosse is recognized as the oldest of North American sports, its roots running deep into Native American history. In tracing its origins, Vennum relates how the game frequently rose above recreational status, functioning as a substitute for warfare between tribes as well as a curative for a variety of ailments. It also afforded the tribes an opportunity ``to express social alliances, at the kinship, village, reservation, and national levels.'' Detailed explanations of the rules, techniques, equipment, and playing fields are accompanied by numerous illustrations depicting the game's development. This exhaustive, well-documented work serves as a definitive study of the sport in its traditional form. A worthy addition to core subject and Native American collections.-- William H. Hoffman, Ft. Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., Fla.
Gilbert Taylor
Father Le Mercier, one of the "Black Robe" missionaries of the 1630s, set down an early written account of lacrosse (a negative one, disparaging the custom as heathen), just one of many accounts and legends that Vennum recasts. An ethnographer, he shifts between tales to the sport's cultural expressions within the eastern woodland Indian tribes and its centuries-long development toward its current form and popularity among Native Americans, and as a springtime college sport. Before the NCAA's play-offs, there were even bigger big-time contests: Vennum regales readers with the play-by-play, replete with pregame invocations of the Great Spirit and post-game recriminations about the result, of a Seneca-Mohawk match in 1794. When not retelling other notable encounters, Vennum describes the equipage, variant rules, and, in an interlude, the paintings of George Catlin. His images are among a trove of illustrations on this unique contact sport, all of which blend into the enthusiastic, if idiosyncratic, text. In places where lacrosse lives (along the Mississippi and eastward), patrons will be pleased to see this.
Booknews
Often viewed as a gift from the spirits and as far more than recreation alone, lacrosse has functioned in Indian life as a surrogate or "little brother" of war, as a healing ritual, and as a memorial celebration. Featuring archival illustrations, this book presents a rare account of the rules, equipment, techniques, regional differences, and legendary underpinnings of the game among tribes of the Northeast, Southeast, and Great Lakes regions, including the spiritual components of the game, with interesting sections on lacrosse legends and Indian stick making. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
idrottsforum.org/recensioner - Halvdan Haugsbakken
An important study and a good read... Vennum's writing style is an alluring blend of hygienic academic analysis and historical accounts, narratives and interviews, a style used deliberately throughout the book... His book is a compelling journey into the historical exploration of an old team sport.

Journal of Anthropological Research - Joe Watkins
An interesting recount of the various ways that Indians utilized the game in their cultural, social, and curative worlds.

Washington Times
In a mix of narrative, interviews, analysis, and tribal lore, Mr. Vennum has crafted a complex and entertaining book... American Indian Lacrosse offers a sweeping new perspective on a game that has functioned, at various times, as symbolic combat ritual, healing ceremony, gambling spectacle, war ruse, and intercollegiate sport.

American Anthropologist
Brings the game's cultural complexities and historical roles to life... A major contribution to the cultural history of sport.

Book News
This book presents a rare account.

idrottsforum.org/recensioner

An important study and a good read... Vennum's writing style is an alluring blend of hygienic academic analysis and historical accounts, narratives and interviews, a style used deliberately throughout the book... His book is a compelling journey into the historical exploration of an old team sport.

— Halvdan Haugsbakken

Journal of Anthropological Research

An interesting recount of the various ways that Indians utilized the game in their cultural, social, and curative worlds.

— Joe Watkins

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560983019
Publisher:
Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date:
04/01/1994
Pages:
376

What People are saying about this

David Klarmann
In our attempts to be better, to be successful, to be champions, American Indian Lacrosse helps us achieve greater reward—understanding the essence of the game.

Robert Lipsyte
From the first great super bowls of America, those heroic, spiritual contests played out on mile-long arenas for days at a time, to the modern box game on struggling reservations, Indian lacrosse is a telling thread in our national tapestry, and Tom Vennum has brought it to life.

Mark Burnam
Never before has the story of American Indian lacrosse been told in such a way... [Vennum] explains how the sports world failed to give proper recognition to what was once solely a Native American game.

Meet the Author

Thomas Vennum, senior ethnomusicologist emeritus at the Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., is the author of Lacrosse Legends of the First Americans. Retired and living in Tucson, Arizona, he continues research among Indian tribes in Sonora, Mexico, specifically the Seri.

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