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Native Players, Coaches, and an Owner Making Waves In Professional Lacrosse

Courtesy Georgia Swarm / Onondaga player Lyle Thompson makes a grand entrance for the Georgia Swarm.

Native Players, Coaches, and an Owner Making Waves In Professional Lacrosse

Lyle Thompson, Onondaga, scores 100th goal with Georgia Swarm, additional comments from Quinn Powless, Mohawk, Kyle Jackson, Aamjiwnaang First Nations and Jerome Thompson

Fans of the Georgia Swarm in the National Lacrosse League celebrated Native American Heritage Night on March 24th at the Infinite Energy Arena. Lyle Thompson, Onondaga, celebrated by scoring his 100th career goal.

It was just another night for a professional Native athlete playing the Creator’s Game.

Thompson is among the many Native players currently playing professional lacrosse for the National Lacrosse League. Others making waves and representing their culture — and who were able to give comments to Indian Country Today — are Kyle Jackson, Aamjiwnaang First Nations, and Quinn Powless, Six Nations Mohawk, who both play for the Rochester Knighthawks, and Lyle’s brother Jerome Thompson, Onondaga, also with the Georgia Swarm.

The professional league says Native American players and owners make a serious impression on the sport.

​The New England Black Wolves team is partially owned by the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, the Rochester Knighthawks, has a Native American co-owner/General Manager, and the Georgia Swarm, the defending league champs, has eight Native American players on its roster.

In January of this year, The Buffalo Bandits announced the return of the Native American Scholarship, which was presented on Native American Night on Saturday, Feb. 10, when the Bandits faced the Georgia Swarm.

In an interview with Indian Country Today’s Associate Editor Vincent Schilling, several Native professional lacrosse players shared their thoughts on what it’s like to play the Creator’s Game as professionals.

Vincent Schilling: How does it feel to play the Creator’s Game at a national level?

Quinn Powless: It’s a huge opportunity to play in the NLL. I’m happy to be representing my community.”

Quinn Powless – photo by Micheline Veluvolu.

Kyle Jackson: I take great pride in playing a sport that is so tied to my culture. Growing up, I was not integrated into the culture as much as I would have wanted, but throughout the course of my later years my family has dived head first into our culture. Playing the national summer sport of Canada, that was originally created by my culture, is a pretty cool experience. With various Native American nights around the league, it’s a great opportunity for the NLL to showcase the variety within the league. It is not a sport for one particular race/ethnicity/gender or age group. This is a universal game that can and should be shared with everyone.

Lyle Thompson: It makes me proud, part of who I am, proud of where I come from. I feel like for me, being Native American and living it, not just hearing about it or learning about it, growing up living this way with the game being instilled in our culture, it feels like there’s a little bit more weight on my shoulders in how I represent the game, if I have to do that a certain way. But it’s easy because I’ve lived this my whole life. My dad has preached it on the way we’re supposed to play. At the same time, I feel like it’s important for me to spread the game because I want to see it grow because I know where its come, and I want to be a part of where it’s going to go.

Vincent Schilling: In the NLL, there are a lot of Native American athletes, as well as owners. This is different compared to other professional leagues. Does this mean something to you?

Jerome Thompson: It feels good to know that Native American people, the people who pretty much invented the game of lacrosse, that are able to go out and play this game and show it too. It’s a young game, it’s growing very fast. It’s an honor to be able to show it to kids and we want to help kids get into the sport we grew up playing our whole lives.

Photo by Josh Schaefer / GetMyPhoto.ca - Jerome Thompson celebrates with the championship cup for the Georgia Swarm.

Vincent Schilling: In what ways do you honor your Native American roots as a professional athlete?​

Lyle Thompson: Just the way I present myself and the way I play. I go out and make sure that I play at a high level partly because ever since I was a kid, I’ve been taught to play the game a certain way, but also just because someone new might be watching me, and I personally want to represent the game and I represent more than that. I want to represent myself, and a huge part of that is my culture. Looking at the Iroquois Nationals, there’s a lot of pride throwing on that jersey, and I always use that example just because of the feeling I get when I get the opportunity to play for Iroquois. So I do the same things when playing in the NLL. I’m just proud of who I am. I want to show that and I want to let people know. I do that by the way I present myself.

Jerome Thompson: I give thanks before every game, before it starts, I give thanks that I’m able to play that game just along with every other thing that we give thanks for. That’s something that I do before every game, so that’s how I carry it on in that way.

For more information about professional lacrosse, visit the National Lacrosse League website at http://www.nll.com.

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