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Let the Game Begin! Native American Lacrosse


Lacrosse is becoming more popular across the country, especially in high schools and colleges. Its roots are planted in Native American cultures. The word lacrosse is actually French for stick. Sometimes called stickball or ball play by Native Americans, it was a violent game that boasted few rules, many players, went on for days, and looked much different than the modern-day version. While the game was played differently by various Native American groups, most used a long-handled stick with a netted basket attached. The ball would be thrown and caught with the basket, and the goal was to get the ball through a goal. Participants were not allowed to touch the ball, which was made of leather or other materials.

For most groups, lacrosse was tied to their spiritual world and included pre-game rituals. For others, it settled disputes, was a form of war-training, and included gambling. Lacrosse at this time was a sport played by men, with women on the sidelines. Various Native American groups still play traditional forms of lacrosse today.

This lesson could be used as a supplement to the regular Native American cultures curriculum. It also could be a stand-alone lesson. It works best with students fourth through eighth grades. Students will analyze a painting of a Native American lacrosse game using the OPTICS method, explore a brief overview of lacrosse's history, and create a television broadcast script to narrate the action of a game.


In this lesson, students:

  • Analyze a painting.
  • Explore the history and basic procedures and purposes of lacrosse in Native American cultures.
  • Connect the past to the present.
  • Sequence and narrate the action of a lacrosse game.



  1. Put students into pairs, and give them a minute to compile a list of sports. Share and discuss how lacrosse fits into their lists.
  2. Show the George Catlin painting of Choctaws playing lacrosse. Have the students complete the OPTICS exercise. Lead a class discussion on student answers, and share with the class the analysis information provided.
  3. Have students read "The Indian Origins of Lacrosse." Have students complete the note-taking organizer. Optional: Have each pair of students read a paragraph and summarize it for the class.
  4. Tell students that for the next activity, they will need to pretend they are at the event portrayed in the painting. They will be creating a sports broadcast of the game.
  5. Put students into trios. One is the interview, another is a player, and the third is an observer. (If you have groups of four, the last student could be on the opposing team.) Students will be writing scripts for their broadcasts and then presenting them to the class (if technology is available, these broadcasts could also be filmed.) Go over the rubric, and make sure students refer back to the painting as they write their scripts.
  6. Give time for groups to work and then have each group present their broadcast to the class.


Have students draw their own scene from a Native American lacrosse game and write a caption that is at least three sentences.

Lesson Extensions

1. Make a storyboard of the major action of the lacrosse game.

2. Videotape the presentations and have students edit them to look like real news broadcasts.

3. Explore with students the 2010 dispute in which Iroquois national team was unable to participate in the lacrosse world championship because they were unable to travel with their tribal passports.

This lesson was written by Lynne Zalesak, Houston, TX, and Kelly Pearce, Albuquerque, NM.