The Medicine Game
With all the hype behind the release of the "Crooked Arrows" trailer (see below) and the world getting a glimpse of the first ever lacrosse movie, I figured I would post something I wrote about a year ago that I never got to publish. The post fits in nicely with the release of the Crooked Arrows trailer as the story is about a "medicine game."
I got a chance to speak with Cody Jamieson about what it meant to play in a Medicine Game and also got to hear Oren Lyons speak at the Syracuse Stage in 2010 about a Medicine Game. Here is my story: (**Sorry for font trouble).
On a sunny afternoon on the reservation of the Six Nations tribe in Six Nations, Ontario, Cody Jamieson was grilling hot dogs and getting ready to watch game six of the Stanley Cup playoffs with friends and family. It was like most Sunday afternoons for Jamieson, relaxing and calm, but soon, things were about to change.
"I remember just about to grab something to eat when someone came running over and said that a ‘medicine game’ had been called," Jamieson said. "When you hear those words you drop what you’re doing and head to the field."
A medicine game is known to the people of the Six Nations tribe, and those of any Native American reservation, as a game of healing. At any point during any day, anyone can call for a medicine game. "On that day I believe this man’s wife had a serious fever, so he called for a game and we played for about an hour," Jamieson said.
"The game itself is medicine," said Oren Lyons, a former goalie for the Syracuse Orange in the late 1950’s and faith keeper for the Six Nations and Onondaga Nation’s council. "The ball is medicine, the sticks are medicine. Just playing the game means so much to the person who called for it and for the person is sick."
The rules are pretty simple. The game is played to an odd number, usually three or five but the least of everyone’s worries is the score. "It matters how hard you played, not the score," said Lyons.
"Its way beyond a game," said Jamieson, who has played in three medicine games to his recollection. "The rules are pretty much to just play hard and play fair."
The game can go on for hours and there are many different types of medicine games. Often times there will be 10 year olds playing against 50 year olds and that is the beauty of it. The games do get rough, they do get physical, but in the end, everyone hugs and says a prayer. After the game, there is usually a feast of some sort, much more of a feast than the few hot dogs Jamieson was grilling. "Usually after the game, depending on how long it took, the women of the tribes have been cooking and we can often smell it on the field. I sometimes want the game to end quicker because it smells so good," Jamieson said.
The medicine game pretty much sums up what the sport of lacrosse means to Native Americans. The sport connects a community to creation and the sport is often called "The Creators Game." Lacrosse has been played on reservations long before the NCAA national championship became a nationally televised event. On reservations throughout the U.S. and Canada, the sport of lacrosse is called, "Deyhontsigwa'ehs," which is translated to mean "They bump hips." After watching one minute of any lacrosse game, one would understand how the game got its name. When a lacrosse game is played, it is said to raise the hearts of the Native American people.
"The game was given to us to help people," Lyons said. "A game can settle arguments, settle wars."