The Trade of the Tools

Cherokee sticks from Oklahoma (left) and North Carolina

Most of the information E-Lacrosse has found for you on the web about Native American lacrosse, sticks and stick-making concentrates on the Iroquois, but the Cherokee play as well. They play a version of the game in which two smaller sticks (about 2' long) are carried by each player. A great deal of the paintings and sketches we see of the early game feature these smaller sticks so some people assume that they are the predecesors of the longer single sticks. E-Lacrosse visited with lacrosse historian Thomas Vennum, Jr. in Washington, D.C. and discovered that but both games have existed simultaneously in different regions for well over a century. Like the Iroquois, the Cherokee take great pride in the art of stick-making. The game is similar throughout Cherokee communities, but the stick crafts are unique. The handle on the sticks from Oklahoma (bottom) is a solid piece of wood. The wood is steamed, bent around and tied down with rawhide at the base to create the head of the stick. The sticks from North Carolina, when cut, include half of the handle on each end of the wood strip. When the stick is steam-bent, the two halves are joined with wooden pegs. Holes are drilled and rawhide is weaved in to make a pocket. The hole positions and stringing are unique to every stick and/or stick-maker. The Great Lakes tribes cut balls from tree knots to ensure density. Holes are drilled through to create "whistler" balls which whir as they fly through the air. The clubs below are relatively the same size and wieght of the sticks used to prepare for the rigors of battle, according to Thomas Vennum, Jr. , whose very popular book American Indian Lacrosse, Little Brother of War is available through the E-Lacrosse Book Store.

The Iroquois Sticks from New York and Canada are the direct ancestors of the plastic sticks we now use. The stick makers were signed to contracts with a Baltimore distributor who supplied all of the national college teams and locals kids with sticks from the north.

The stick on the left is from the early 1900's. As you can see, the "traditional" stringing patern on today's hi-tech heads is identical to the sticks of old. Few wooden field lacrosse sticks are being made today. Box sticks are still available through makers in the Tuscarora community near Niagra Falls.

Vennum's book about the Indian game has been translated into german too. All of the sticks you see here are his. He is an Ethnomusicologist by trade and has recorded two albums of Native American music with Mickey Hart from The Grateful Dead, including a compilation of Indian U.S. military veteran songs. The music is his first love. When asked if he was attending a big local lacrosse event recently, he said "I might, but I hope to be in Mexico, recording some music."