To see how whiteness has affected lacrosse and took it away from the Native Americans, I studied the movie Crooked Arrows which was partly financed by the Onandaga people. The film covers a Native American high school lacrosse team on a reservation and how it navigates the modern world. The film starts off in the past, showing a traditional game of lacrosse in traditional Native American attire. Are they playing well in this game? It soon transitions to showing a modern game with the modern team. The Native American team is playing very poorly and is losing badly to a white prep school. The team then gets a new coach, a mixed Native American man who worked at a casino. He finds the team disinterested by the game and thinks they have no chemistry. They played the game as a sport instead of a sacred game that honors their people and the creator. He tries to fix the problem by buying the newest gear. This changes nothing and they continue to lose to the white prep schools. The team then starts to come together when they tap into their traditions including finding their spirit animals in addition to replacing their factory-made lacrosse sticks with traditional wooden crafted lacrosse sticks. They also play their own unique style of lacrosse that was more creative and freer. Additionally, the players revive an old custom receiving feathers after the game to honor great plays. They continue to win and make it to the championship where they play the best white prep school. The championship attracts college recruiters and many fans for both teams. The Crooked Arrows team ends up winning despite foul play and taunting by the prep school. Ironically, during the course of the game there is a clip of a white woman asking when Indians start playing lacrosse. After the game, the white prep players finally showed respect for the team by telling them they deserved the win and had lots of skill. I believe that through this film, Richard Dyer, and my personal experience, I will be able to show how whiteness has changed the game and taken it away from the Native Americans.
The game has been affected by whiteness in the same ways many other traditions have. The sticks and gear are no longer made out of wood by a man. Sticks are now mass produced by machines in a factory. Instead of wood, they are now made of metal and plastic. Padded gear also has been added to the game This is done by companies run by white men that make a profit off of the sale of such things. As a result, the price of gear rises and makes lacrosse an expensive sport to start playing. The higher price excludes low class families and poor Native Americans on the reservations. This influence is shown when the team in the movie gets the newest gear from the company Reebok. The team eventually switches to wooden sticks carved by an elder, but the initial attempt to get the newest, supposedly best gear shows how much the game has been changed. The game is also changed in who plays it. The game has become a sport all over prep schools, with many wealthy white students playing it. The film also shows how only white boys are playing lacrosse because the Native American team is the only non-prep school team, and the only non-white players. The final example of the effects of whiteness on the game is shown by the monumental line the white woman asked: "When did the Indians start playing lacrosse?" This one line shows how much of the history of lacrosse has been lost and how the game has become the white man’s game. It also shows how the history of it being the ancient Native American game has been lost. It follows the typical theme of the white men taking something that isn't theirs, claiming ownership and taking credit for it.
In the end, the film shows how whiteness has changed the game into a product and specifically, a white man’s product. The sport has changed drastically and been commercialized, making it a sport for the rich white boy. This shows the performance of America of the white man taking from the Native American and changing it and making it theirs. Also it is another performance of America as the white men works to hide the change and history of the game to act like it wasn't stolen. The film calls out the white community’s lack of knowledge of lacrosse’s history. It also shows how the Native American people need to revitalize their own traditions and keep playing the creator’s game. It has become a sport similar to many other white sports and not the medicine game played for the creator, which is undercutting its importance and history. This is also backed up by my experiences within the sport and shows how widespread it is. The good news is films like Crooked Arrows and other people are fighting to bring awareness and the game back to its Native American owners. With lacrosse being the fastest growing sport in the U.S, there is hope that future generations of players will come to learn its rich history.
Rash, Steve, director. Crooked Arrows. 2012
DYER, RICHARD. WHITE: Essays on Race and Culture. ROUTLEDGE, 2017.