Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:2 (August 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Thomas Vennum, Jr.'s, American Indian Lacrosse is a welcome compendium of the cultural importance of lacrosse to Native Americans. Using an interesting arrangement of analysis and fictional narrative, the book examines the signal importance of lacrosse in Native American cultures throughout eastern North America. Played for centuries by many Native American societies, lacrosse has been co-opted by Anglo-America, reformed, rationalized, and ordered in a way that has divested it of the ritual importance it once found among Native Americans. Vennum's investigation re-animates a tradition that has withered among Native Americans who have been forced to abandon their cultures by Anglo-Americans. This timely account not only shows the significance of lacrosse as a Native American cultural tradition, but also affirms a renewed interest in the traditional game by Native Americans. Vennum examines the difference in the game as played by the Native Americans of the Great Lakes, eastern Canada, the Southeastern United States, and the Mississippi Valley. Among the Iroquois, the Choctaw, or the Ojibwa, the game took on different forms. Lacrosse sticks differed in size, in shape, and in the number used. The Choctaw and Cherokee, for instance, play a traditional game using two sticks, whereas the Native Americans of the Great Lakes and eastern Canada use only one stick. The size and density of the ball, the placement of a single goal or two goals, and the size and shape of the field varied as well.