The 1994 Iroquois National Team

The 1998 Roster

1Chris HoppsGoal276-0165Potsdam
2Pat SolomonGoal206-0175Hobart
3J.D. JonesMid196-1185Mercyhurst
5Corey BomberryMid225-11195Rochester Knighthawks
7Owen BenedictMid276-2175Long Island / Syracuse Smash
9Dan BurnamAttack285-9200Nazareth
11Scott BurnamMid295-10180Cornell
12Mike BenedictMid275-9170North County CC / Syracuse Smash
13Chip GeorgeDef326-1185Potsdam
14Jim BarnesMid205-9175Herkimer
15Rex LyonsAttack365-11190Syracuse
16Neal PowlessAttack235-10190Nazareth
17Tony GrayMid266-2180Hobart
18Tim SolomonMid245-11190Hobart
19Cam BomberryAttack285-9200Nazareth / Rochester Knighthawks
20Evan ThompsonMid205-10175Hobart
21Bill SolomonAttack295-9175Canton
22Al JonesMid226-0200Herkimer
23Mark BurnamDef345-10210Syracuse / Syracuse Smash
24Cal SmithDef185-11165Wesley
29Vince SchiffertDef325-9160
30Matt AlexanderMid225-10170Syracuse
33Jim BissellDef346-0208
42Gewas SchindlerAttack225-11175Loyola
43Marshall AbramsDef206-0175Syracuse
44Joe SolomonGoal305-11260Cornell

Coaches: Ron Doctor with Dave Pittard and Reggie Thorpe

Lacrosse: For Some It’s More Than a Game

Native Americans compete in the modern lacrosse game without losing sight of its traditional heritage.

When Native Americans play lacrosse, they believe that the spirits of their ancestors are playing with them. "I would never do anything on the field that might taint the game." - Neal Powless

Neal Powless stood behind the restraining line, waiting. Waiting as all attackmen must, watching the face-off, wondering whether the ball would come his way.

It did. The pass came, and Powless knew what to do. A quick feed, a quick shot, and the Division III Championship overtime was history. Like all the other players who celebrated on Byrd stadium’s muddy field that day, Powless has played the game of lacrosse since his youth. But the environment in which he learned the game was quite different than that of his teammates.

Powless grew up on the Onandaga Reservation in upstate New York where his father, Irving is an active Chief. The Onandaga Nation remains sovereign to this day, working for the Six Nations. "Every day we work towards keeping our independent status and preserving our identity," says Powless. Lacrosse is a part of that identity.

Powless stresses that when Native Americans play lacrosse, they believe that the spirits of their ancestors are playing with them, giving them strength.

Because of that connection, Powless says, "I would never do anything on the field that might taint the game. We play hard, and we play to win, but it is most important to play fair-- don’t take out a guy at the legs because he’s their best player, and don’t retaliate with a cheap check if you’ve been hit with a clean one. Losing is fine as long as you’ve played hard."

In addition to Baggataway and Tewarrathon there is another Native American name for lacrosse, Takitchawei, which is translated "to bump hips." Powless explains, "Performing all of the skills needed to play lacrosse, with all of the hip checks and physical contact requires a lot of dexterity. Sometimes people think that the game is nothing but hitting."

Powless enjoys the field game and the box game equally, regardless of differences in physical contact. "If somebody calls me up to play a field game, I say ‘alright’ and I grab my helmet and gloves. If somebody calls me up to play box, I say ‘alright’ and I grab all of my equipment. As long as I’m out there with my friends throwing the ball around, it’s all the same to me."

Scott Burnam, who is half Mohawk, has had an ever-present interest in lacrosse. He and his brothers Mark and Dan all played Division I lacrosse and are now members of the Iroquois National team. Before the 1990 World Games in Australia, Native Americans were banned from international competition (their box leagues were considered to be professional). When they were admitted, Oren Lyons, the faithkeeper of the Onandaga Nation, founded the Iroquois National Team. "It was amazing to finally be allowed into international play," expresses Burnam. The heritage and the traditional aspects of the game were stressed that year in an effort to make sure the lacrosse world knew how much the game means to the Iroquois. Lyons performed a traditional dance before the tournament, and they had an opportunity to sing the Iroquois national anthem.

Oftentimes people associate Native American lacrosse with history book images of wooden sticks, open fields, and battle cries. "For the Native Americans, lacrosse was not about going out and killing each other on the field, and it also wasn’t just about playing around and having fun," says Burnam. Lacrosse was played to honor the Creator. It was a medicine game. It was a means of training warriors. "For all that the game provided, the Native Americans consider lacrosse to be a gift from the Creator."

Burnam, who currently coaches at Wesley College, often shares his feelings about the Native American traditions of the game with his players. "The majority of my friends and teammates had no idea about the depth of the history behind lacrosse. Especially after playing for the Iroquois Nationals and coaching the 19-and-unders, I want my players to know more about the game."

Beyond Powless and the Burnam family, there are many Native Americans who have played or coached in the modern college game. Sid Jamieson, Cam Bomberry, and Jacob LaSore are all of Native American descent. Marshall Abrahams is a freshman long stick for Syracuse. Gewas Schindler, who also grew up on the Onandaga nation, followed in the footsteps of Dan Burnam and is currently a sophomore attackman at Loyola.

   Powless believes that the impact of Native American players on the field lacrosse game is just beginning. He credits this growth to the development of the youth leagues on the reservation. "And I’m not just talking about sending kids to Division III schools and Junior Colleges, where the majority of reservation players have gone in the past." Keep an eye out for Drew Bucktooth. Last summer, at age 15, he excelled in the 19-and-under world tournament against the likes of John Hess and Chris Massey, earning the first spot ever for a Native American on the All–World Tournament Team.

At age 5 Drew was a member of the first "mosquito" reservation team, a program that gets kids developing lacrosse skills at an early age. Now the leagues are full, and those first players are gearing up for high school and college lacrosse. 

The Native Americans of the Onandaga Reservation have worked to retain their language, their spiritual helpers, and their ceremonies from times past. Lacrosse is also an important part of the Onandaga heritage. Native Americans say that they received the game of lacrosse as a gift from the Creator. Since that time the game has evolved, with Native Americans spreading it to many cultures other than their own. The lacrosse that is played today may appear to be different than it was hundreds of years ago, but for Native Americans their beliefs and traditions are alive in every game.

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Dan Burnam in the '94 games in England

Neal Powless at Nazareth

Dan, Mark and Scott Burnam are competing in their third World Championships!

Scott Burnam vs. Team USA

Sophomore Marshall Abrams will face Syracuse teammate Casey Powell in the World Games!

Ansley Jemison and Marshall Abrams

Gewas Schindler computer screen wallpaper!