A Brief History of Lacrosse
The sport of lacrosse, the oldest-known athletic game played in North America, was originally not a sport at all. Called "tewaaraton" (medicine game) by the North American Indian tribes that founded and played it long before Columbus discovered the New World, lacrosse originated as a ceremonial religious rite to honor the creator and was played by as many as 100 to 1000 men of the tribe. Virtually all tribes of southern Canada and the eastern United States to the western Great Lakes played some type of lacrosse, and games were usually preceded by solemn rituals and dances.
White settlers in the early 17th century gave lacrosse its European name. French Jesuit missionaries felt that the stick used in the contest resembled the type of staff, or crosier, carried by their bishops and known, in French, as la crosse. From then on, baggataway went by the name lacrosse.
Lacrosse, as we know it today, began to be played around 1840, in eastern Canada, near Quebec and Montreal. The sport was so popular that, in 1867, the Canadian Parliament declared lacrosse (not hockey) as Canada's national game.
Lacrosse combines many of the best elements of other popular sports. For example, the physical demands of lacrosse are remarkably similar to those required for football, while its individual and defensive team concepts somewhat parallel those of basketball. The free-flowing nature of the game, from offense to defense, over the vast expanse of a large field, closely resembles soccer. And the speed of ball movement and the ability of teams to attack from, and defend the area behind the goal, echoes the play of hockey.
Eastern Michigan University and the Men’s Lacrosse program have a deep connection with the Native Americans that played this sport. The Huron (or Wyandot) were a part of the Iroquois Nation tribe that began on the north shore of Lake Ontario in current day Canada. Due to settlers from Europe, the tribe was pushed down through Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and finally Oklahoma where they still reside today as the Wyandotte Nation. References to their tribe can be found all around the Metro Detroit area and specifically Ypsilanti. Prior to the 1991/92 school year, Eastern Michigan’s mascot was the Hurons.
Our program does not want to lose the connection between lacrosse and the Native Americans, so we wear the Wyandotte Nation Turtle on our jerseys to honor the Native Americans when we play the Creators Game, and to keep the connection between the old Huron Tribe and our school alive.